Whether you’re buying a lotto ticket, betting on sports or the horses, playing the pokies at the casino or wagering money online, gambling involves risking something of value to win additional money or material goods. It’s a common pastime that can turn into an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences. Problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work and cause financial disaster. It can also make people feel depressed, anxious or guilty.
A traumatic experience or event can trigger gambling disorder, but even healthy gamblers can develop a problem if they start losing control of their finances. Symptoms include compulsive gambling, a desire to gamble in spite of losses and increased gambling activity. It is important to seek help if you suspect you have a problem, as it is treatable.
The most common treatment for gambling disorders is behavioral therapy, which can help you learn to regulate your emotions and reduce your urges to gamble. It can also teach you strategies to avoid triggers and deal with them when they arise. In addition, it is important to seek peer support in a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous or Alcoholics Anonymous. Research shows that being around others who have experienced gambling problems can be helpful in overcoming addiction.
Another type of treatment for gambling disorders is cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps you challenge negative thinking patterns like the illusion of control and the gambler’s fallacy. These distortions can increase compulsive gambling and lead to a vicious cycle of losses. CBT sessions may involve homework, practice exercises and self-reflection to help you replace these negative thoughts with healthier ones.
Other options for treating gambling disorder are family therapy and group counseling. Family therapy can help you reconnect with your loved ones and learn to communicate more effectively. It can also provide a safe environment to discuss the effects of your gambling disorder on your relationships, and it can teach you new ways to cope with stress and conflict.
A final option for addressing gambling disorder is medication. There are no FDA-approved medications specifically for gambling disorders, but some antidepressants and antianxiety drugs can help reduce impulsiveness and decrease feelings of anxiety. It is also a good idea to try relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga, which can reduce the effects of stress and increase mental clarity.
In addition, there are several other steps you can take to curb gambling addiction: Strengthen your support network; find new ways to occupy your time, such as taking up a hobby, taking a class or volunteering for a worthy cause. Avoid places and situations that make you want to gamble; if your normal way to and from work passes by a casino, for example, consider taking an alternate route. And always have a plan for when you’re tempted to gamble, including removing credit cards from your wallet and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand. These simple steps can help you avoid the dangerous gambler’s fallacy and break the habit.