How to Manage a Gambling Problem

Gambling is risking money or something of value on an event whose outcome depends on chance, such as a lottery draw, football match or slot machine. It can also involve betting on horses, dogs or other sports events or even speculating about businesses, stock market movements or political elections. Gambling is a major global commercial activity and the legal gambling industry is worth around US$342 billion.

There are many reasons why people gamble, ranging from a desire to change their mood to socializing with friends. The prospect of a big win can trigger feelings of euphoria, which stimulate the brain’s reward system. Many people find that they are able to control their gambling addictions, but others may struggle to break the habit.

The first step in managing a problem is acknowledging that you have one. This can be difficult, especially if you have lost large sums of money and damaged relationships as a result of your gambling habits. However, you are not alone and there are many resources available to help you.

Gambling disorder is a mental health condition that affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. It is classed as a behavioral addiction and is similar to substance use disorders in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and physiology. The condition is now included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), which reflects research showing that gambling disorder shares features with other addictive behaviors such as drug and alcohol addiction.

If you think you have a problem, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. This can be done by visiting your GP or attending a specialized gambling treatment program. The latter are usually inpatient facilities, and are aimed at those with severe gambling problems that cannot be managed without round the clock support.

There are also online programs to help people with gambling issues. These programs often offer group support and advice on how to overcome the problem. They can help you set realistic goals and stick to them, and they can teach you coping skills so that you can deal with your urges. Some of these online programs also provide a variety of specialized services, including family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling.

If you are struggling to control your gambling, it is important to reassess your life priorities. It can be helpful to refocus your energy on activities that bring you pleasure and satisfaction, such as exercise, music or other hobbies. You can also get support from your loved ones or join a self-help group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with a therapist who can help you manage your gambling addiction. Take our free assessment, and you could be matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours. CU Boulder students can also access free psychiatry and counseling through AcademicLiveCare.