Gambling is an activity in which a person risks money or other possessions on the outcome of an event where there is an element of chance. This includes casino games, fruit machines, slot machines, scratch cards, horse and dog races, football accumulators, lotteries and betting on sporting events. It also includes business transactions that involve a degree of skill such as poker or bridge, although these are not considered gambling under most state laws.
Biologically, gambling stimulates the reward center in your brain, similar to how eating a meal or spending time with a friend makes you feel good. However, problem gambling often goes beyond entertainment and becomes a way to gain a profit or escape from boredom or stress. This cycle can lead to an uncontrollable urge to gamble and is difficult to break.
There are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorder, but psychotherapy can help you identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The most common type of psychotherapy for gambling disorder is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), which helps you understand how your thoughts and feelings influence your behavior. Another option is motivational interviewing, which empowers you to address any uncertainty or doubt you have about healthy change. Other types of psychotherapy for gambling disorder include family therapy, group therapy and a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous called Gamblers Anonymous. Strengthening your support network, focusing on other activities and addressing any coexisting mental health conditions can also be helpful.