Gambling Disorders – How to Recognise and Treat a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is an activity where you risk something of value (money, goods or services) in the hope of gaining something more valuable. It involves some element of chance, and the outcome is often influenced by other factors, such as emotion, intelligence or the actions of others. Examples include:

It can be a fun way to pass the time, but for some people it becomes problematic and can lead to addiction. Problem gambling can interfere with physical and mental health, affect relationships and work or study performance, cause debt and even result in homelessness. It can also be dangerous to self-esteem and can cause family members to try to control the behaviour of the person with a gambling disorder.

Some people can stop gambling on their own, but many people with a gambling disorder need help. Treatment options may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. A key first step is to realise that you have a problem.

There are some warning signs that you or someone you know is gambling too much. These include:

Having trouble focusing or remembering important events or information. Feeling irritable or angry when unable to gamble. Feeling the need to keep gambling a secret from family and friends or lying about how much you gamble. Spending more and more time gambling and putting other activities on hold. Trying to make up for losses by gambling more. Feeling that your gambling is out of control, even after a big win.

If you are concerned about your own or a friend’s gambling, you can get support and advice from the GamCare helpline, or by talking to a counsellor. Some therapists specialise in gambling disorders, and you can use BetterHelp to find a therapist who can help.

People who have a gambling disorder often have underlying mood problems such as depression or stress, which can make it harder to quit gambling. The disorder can also run in families, and some people start gambling at a younger age or more often than others.

The biggest challenge for anyone with a gambling disorder is realising they have a problem and taking action to address it. Then they can begin to repair their lives. This might take time, especially if the person has lost money or strained or broken relationships. But it’s important to remember that many people have successfully overcome gambling problems and rebuilt their lives. There are some great resources out there to help you, including self-assessments and peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also get support from family and friends, or organisations that offer financial help and advice. It’s also a good idea to look after your own wellbeing and get regular exercise and sleep. Getting healthy can help you cope with your feelings and prevent gambling from becoming a problem. It can also be helpful to seek therapy for other issues that might be affecting your life, such as relationship problems, depression or anxiety.