Getting Help For Gambling Disorders

Gambling is placing a wager on an event that is at least partially determined by chance, with the intent to win money or something else of value. This activity can be done in many forms, including betting on sports events or using the pokies (Australian poker machines). Despite its popularity and widespread acceptance, gambling can also lead to harmful habits and significant financial problems. Symptoms of problem gambling include lying to family members or therapists about the extent of involvement in the activity; committing illegal acts such as forgery, fraud, and theft in order to fund a gambling addiction; and causing damage to relationships, work, education, or finances through compulsive gambling (American Psychiatric Association, 2014).

In many places, gambling is illegal or highly regulated. This has led to a close relationship between governments and gambling organizations, wherein the government provides tax revenues in return for gambling operations. It has also led to gambling tourism and a rise in organized crime. Some people can overcome gambling disorders on their own, but many need treatment. One type of treatment that is proven effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy. In this type of treatment, a person learns to resist unhealthy gambling thoughts and behaviors. They also learn to confront irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a series of losses will be followed by an immediate win.

Other types of treatment for gambling disorders include psychodynamic therapy, individual counseling, and group therapy. Many people with gambling disorders also have underlying mood conditions, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can trigger and exacerbate gambling problems, so it is important to seek treatment for them as well.

A person with a gambling disorder may also benefit from a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step recovery model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups can provide guidance, accountability, and peer support as they struggle to maintain a healthy lifestyle free of gambling.

Getting help for a gambling disorder is not easy, but it is possible to break the cycle. Seek out a therapist who is trained to treat gambling disorders and be ready to commit to a long-term treatment plan. The therapist can teach you how to recognize a gambling urge and find healthy alternatives to gambling, such as exercising, playing with friends, or volunteering for a worthy cause.

Research on the effects of gambling disorders is limited, but there are some promising developments. Longitudinal studies can identify factors that affect an individual’s likelihood of developing a gambling disorder, and they can allow researchers to test hypotheses about causality. Such studies can be expensive and time consuming, however, and they can confound factors such as aging and period effects. Nevertheless, longitudinal research is becoming increasingly common and sophisticated for gambling disorders. In addition to identifying risk factors, this type of research can also help with the development of new and more effective treatment methods. This is because longitudinal data can help to differentiate between a person’s reaction to a particular situation and their reaction to the environment in general.

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