Getting Help For a Gambling Disorder

Gambling involves a wager of something of value, usually money, on an event with an uncertain outcome. The event may be determined by chance or by the bettor’s miscalculation. While the term “gambling” often refers to casino games, it is also used to describe other types of betting and gaming. These include horse races, lotteries, and most video game-related activities that involve the exchange of real money for virtual goods.

A person who engages in gambling does not necessarily become addicted. However, some people develop gambling disorder, which is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) as a recurrent pattern of problematic behavior that causes significant distress or impairment in daily functioning. In addition, some people develop mood disorders that are exacerbated by or trigger gambling behavior.

Getting help for a problem gambler is possible. In addition to individualized therapy and support groups, there are also inpatient and residential treatment programs for those who require around-the-clock care. For those who have a serious or severe gambling addiction, these programs are sometimes the best option for recovery.

There are also family and marriage counseling, career and credit counseling, and other specialized therapies available for individuals dealing with problem gambling or with family members who have a gambling disorder. These can help families work through the specific issues created or aggravated by the gambler’s gambling and begin to rebuild damaged relationships and finances.

While gambling is most commonly seen in casinos and racetracks, it can be found at almost any place where there is a public gathering of people. People can bet on the outcome of a sporting event, a political contest, or even the stock market. Some forms of gambling are illegal, and anyone convicted of a misdemeanor gambling offense can face up to a year in jail. Felony convictions can carry prison sentences of up to 10 years, as well as hefty fines.

The first step to overcome a gambling addiction is to build a strong support network. Talk with trusted friends and family members, and consider joining a peer support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous or a similar program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. Many of these support groups have a system for finding a sponsor, which is an ex-gambler who can provide guidance and support as you move through the recovery process. You may also want to seek therapy for underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can be both triggered by and made worse by compulsive gambling.

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