Gambling is wagering something of value on an event based primarily on chance or skill, and where there’s an intention to win a prize. It can be done legally in many states, and it’s a huge global industry. It includes everything from slot machines to poker and horse races. The US Food and Drug Administration does not currently approve any medications to help people with gambling disorder, but several types of psychotherapy can help. Psychotherapy is a term for a wide range of treatment techniques that aim to change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. These therapies typically take place with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or social worker.
It’s possible for a person to be addicted to gambling and not have any other mental illness, but it’s also common for there to be underlying conditions that can lead to gambling disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can be triggered by stress and can make a person more likely to gamble and lose control of their spending. Symptoms of these conditions include a loss of interest in normal activities, trouble sleeping and feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness.
Research has shown that gambling is a risky activity and can trigger addictive behavior in some people. People can even become dependent on gambling in the same way they can be addicted to drugs. This is because gambling activates the reward center of the brain, which produces dopamine when you win. These high levels of dopamine can cause a person to feel euphoric and reward seeking, even after losing money.
Studies have also shown that a person’s personality may play a role in whether or not they are susceptible to gambling addiction. People with certain traits, including low self-esteem and impulsivity, are more likely to be prone to this type of addiction.
A few of the most effective treatments for gambling disorder are cognitive-behavior therapy and group therapy. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that teaches a person to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. It can be helpful for people with gambling problems because it teaches them how to confront irrational beliefs, such as believing that a string of losses or close calls—like two out of three cherries on a slot machine—are signs of an imminent big win.
There are also things a person can do to try to reduce the impact of their gambling problem, such as talking about it with someone who won’t judge them and avoiding high-risk situations like using credit cards or carrying large amounts of cash. They can also seek help from a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous. There are even inpatient or residential programs available for those with severe gambling addictions who need round-the-clock care. These programs offer family therapy, marriage and career counseling, financial management training and education and other forms of assistance.