Help For Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. In some cases, strategy is involved, but the key elements of gambling are consideration, risk and a prize. People gamble for a number of reasons, such as the thrill of winning money, the opportunity to socialise and the distraction it offers from worries or stress. But for some, gambling can get out of control and be a dangerous addiction.

It’s estimated that up to 5% of adolescents and adults who gamble develop a gambling disorder, described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “an enduring pattern of excessive gambling that causes significant distress or impairment.” In addition to the psychological damage, it can cause physical health issues, financial hardship and even family breakdown. Vulnerability is higher in low income groups, particularly among men and boys, and those with a history of trauma or depression. But it’s also common for certain communities to consider gambling as a normal pastime, which can make it difficult to recognise a problem.

There are a number of ways to help someone with gambling disorder. Psychotherapy can be helpful, focusing on how unconscious processes may affect a person’s behaviour and helping them to control their impulses. Support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can offer moral support and guidance from former gamblers who have overcome their addiction. Medications can also be an option, with some anti-depressants reducing the appeal of gambling by altering how the brain processes rewards and risks.

In addition to behavioural therapy, it is important to strengthen a person’s support network and find other activities to focus on. This can be done by finding new friends, enrolling in a class or volunteering for a worthy cause. A person can also try reducing their financial risk factors, such as putting their credit card away or letting somebody else manage their money, closing online betting accounts and carrying only a small amount of cash with them. Getting rid of any triggers that can prompt a gambling urge is also useful, such as watching TV adverts for casinos or sports betting sites.

If you or a loved one has a gambling disorder, don’t hesitate to speak up and seek help. The sooner a person gets treatment, the better. Suggest calling a helpline, seeing a healthcare professional or mental health specialist and joining a support group like Gamblers Anonymous. Above all, be supportive and listen carefully, without judgment. The more your loved ones feel heard, the more likely they are to seek and accept help.