Gambling Disorder – What is It?

Gambling is the staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on an uncertain event whose outcome may be determined by chance or accident, or by an individual’s miscalculation. It involves betting with real or virtual money, including paper tickets or chips that are purchased for games of chance like bingo or poker. It can also include a variety of other activities that involve placing bets or wagers, such as playing card games (like bridge and poker) or collectibles like trading cards and small discs used in games such as Pogs and Magic: The Gathering.

In order to have a gambling disorder, the behavior must be severe enough to cause distress or significant problems in at least two areas of your life. These can be emotional, social or financial. For example, your gambling can lead to family problems; it can make you miss work or school; or it can cause debt.

It’s important to know that there are treatments for gambling disorders, and that you don’t have to struggle alone. Support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, and other forms of peer support can help. In addition, counseling can help you think about the problem and consider your options. Counseling can also teach you skills to deal with urges to gamble.

You can also get help by calling a national helpline, such as 1-800-662-HELP (4357), or talking to a trusted friend or family member. You can also seek out a therapist or counselor who has experience treating gambling disorder. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that can help you stop gambling. It teaches you to challenge irrational beliefs that fuel your gambling. For example, CBT helps you stop assuming that a string of losses or a near miss-such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine-signals an imminent win.

Another option is motivational interviewing, which is an approach that empowers you to identify and solve your uncertainty about healthy change. This technique analyzes your problematic gambling patterns and compares them to those of the general population, and it encourages you to make behavioral changes.

Several psychological interventions can help treat gambling disorder, but there are no FDA-approved medications to reduce the symptoms. Medications can, however, help treat co-occurring conditions such as depression or anxiety, which are common in people with gambling disorders.

The new DSM-5 places gambling disorder in a category for behavioral addictions, reflecting research showing that the condition shares many features with substance-related disorders. In particular, it is similar to the way that alcohol and drug addictions disrupt the reward systems of the brain. The DSM-5 also acknowledges that people with gambling disorder often lie, steal and even commit illegal acts in order to fund their gambling. If you’re having trouble managing your debt, you can speak to a StepChange Debt Advisor for free, confidential advice.