Gambling involves placing a bet on the outcome of a game of chance using money or other items of value. Most adults and adolescents do this for entertainment, but some have a gambling disorder. This condition is characterized by persistent and recurrent patterns of gambling behavior that cause distress or impairment in daily functioning. Behavioral scientists study the onset, development, and maintenance of pathological gambling to develop effective treatments.
Many people start gambling for coping reasons: to forget their worries, to socialize with friends, or to relieve boredom. For some, it becomes an addictive activity that they turn to whenever they feel these emotions. It’s important to recognize your loved ones’ coping strategies and help them find healthier alternatives, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or learning relaxation techniques.
There are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can be helpful. This is a form of treatment that takes place with a mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. It helps individuals identify unhealthy emotions and thoughts that contribute to their problem gambling, as well as learn ways to change them.
There are also support groups for people who struggle with gambling addiction. These groups use peer support to help their members recover. You may also want to try a 12-step program like Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also contact a national helpline or ask a doctor for advice.