How to Get Help For a Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves placing something of value, usually money, on an event with a chance of winning a prize. The prize may be money, goods or services. People gamble for social, financial or entertainment reasons. The act of gambling can be addictive. Some people can gamble without problem but for others, it becomes a serious issue that can impact their lives in a negative way. There are a number of ways that people can get help for a gambling addiction. Some of these options include therapy and support groups. Many of the same tools that are used to treat drug addictions can be effective in treating gambling addiction.

While most adults and adolescents have gambled, only a small percentage develop a gambling disorder. People with this condition are preoccupied with gambling, experience a loss of control and exhibit other symptoms that can be very distressing and interfere with daily functioning. Unlike with most other forms of addiction, researchers have only recently begun to understand what causes gambling disorders and how they can be treated.

Until recently, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction. It was grouped in with other impulse-control disorders, such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). The psychiatric community now recognizes that pathological gambling is an actual addiction, and it has moved the disorder to the Addictions chapter in the fifth edition of its diagnostic manual.

The new understanding of gambling as a real addiction has changed the way psychiatrists approach treatment for it. The new research has also raised questions about why some people develop a gambling addiction, and it is beginning to shed light on the underlying biological processes involved.

A large part of what makes gambling addictive is the brain’s reward system. When you win, your brain releases a feel-good chemical called dopamine. Dopamine increases your motivation to continue gambling and reduces your likelihood of stopping. This explains why it is so difficult to stop gambling once you’re hooked.

But there are other factors at play, too. Some people are more likely to develop a gambling addiction than others, including those with low incomes who have more to lose and those who begin gambling at an early age. Other risk factors for developing a gambling addiction include depression, stress, anxiety and substance abuse, which can either trigger or make the gambling problem worse.

If you have a gambling addiction, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Several types of therapy can be useful in helping you overcome your problem, including cognitive-behavior therapy and family or group therapy. These treatments can teach you how to resist urges and change irrational thoughts, such as believing that a string of losses will lead to a big win. They can also help you learn to replace unhealthy coping behaviors with healthy ones, like exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. They can also help you work through any issues that have arisen as a result of your gambling, such as relationship or credit problems.

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