Gambling involves wagering money or something else of value on an event with a chance of winning money or other goods or services. It can be done legally or illegally, on a computer, by phone or in person. There are many different types of gambling: slot machines, roulette, blackjack, poker, horse racing, lotteries, and sports betting. Many countries have regulated or banned gambling.
While a few people may gamble without having a problem, for many people, gambling can become a serious addiction. If a person is preoccupied by gambling, spends more time and money on it than other activities, or tries to make up for losses by gambling even when it causes problems in their daily lives, they may have a gambling disorder.
A therapist can help someone with a gambling problem by teaching them to recognize and control their urges to gamble. Therapists can also teach clients how to manage their finances and credit. Counseling also helps a person with gambling problems cope with the stress and depression associated with this condition. Family therapy and marriage counseling can help the individual repair damaged relationships, and job, career, or debt counseling can address issues that contributed to the gambling behavior in the first place.
Longitudinal studies of gambling behavior can help identify factors that predict gambling disorder. However, there are logistical obstacles to conducting longitudinal research that include funding and a challenge with maintaining continuity of the research team over a multiyear period. Additionally, a gambler’s behavior and self-reports can be affected by their age and other life events over time.
Research on gambling disorders continues to expand and grow. A recent update of the DSM-5 added a new category for behavioral addictions, including gambling disorder. This addition reflects the growing recognition that gambling disorder shares many of the same characteristics as substance-related disorders in terms of clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity, and physiology.
In addition to family, relationship, and job counseling, a therapist can provide help for a person struggling with a gambling problem by helping them build a strong support network. This can include other people struggling with a gambling disorder, as well as family members who have dealt with the problem. A therapist can also encourage the individual to seek help from a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. In some cases, a counselor may suggest that a gambling addict seek treatment from a sponsor—a former gambling addict who has successfully overcome the disease. A sponsor can provide invaluable support and guidance during recovery.