What is gambling disorder?

Gambling Disorder

What are the symptoms of gambling disorder?

Symptoms may include feeling unable to control your gambling, lying about gambling, and having repeated thoughts of gambling. You may need to gamble more money to get the same thrill and feel restless or grumpy when you cut back or stop. And you may harm or lose an important relationship because of gambling.

How is gambling disorder treated?

Gambling disorder is a complex problem. Usually a combination of treatments will work best. These may include:

  • Counseling. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help you learn to manage your urge to gamble. It can also help you find other ways to cope with stress. Family therapy may help you repair relationships that were damaged by your gambling.
  • Support. Self-help groups like Gamblers Anonymous support and educate people who are trying to regain control of their life. Gam-Anon offers support for those affected by another person's gambling.
  • Medicine. If you have another mental health condition, your doctor may prescribe medicine to treat it. Conditions such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder may make gambling disorder worse.

    No medicines are approved to treat gambling disorder. But in some cases, a doctor may prescribe medicine to see if it reduces your urge to gamble. One example is naltrexone. This medicine is often used to treat opioid and alcohol use disorders.

Gambling disorder can increase the risk of suicide, so it's important to get help for this problem. A good place to start is the National Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700. It provides resources and referrals for people who want to quit gambling. The helpline is confidential, and it's open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

If you're thinking about suicide or self-harm, call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 or 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255). Or text HOME to 741741 to access the Crisis Text Line. Go to 988lifeline.org for more information or to chat online.

How is gambling disorder diagnosed?

A doctor will ask questions about your behavior, such as whether you've ever lied about how much you gamble. The doctor may also review your medicines. (Certain medicines may make gambling behavior worse.) You may do a mental health assessment to find other conditions that may need treatment.

How can you care for yourself when you have gambling disorder?

Be kind to yourself when you're recovering from gambling disorder. Attend all of your counseling sessions. Work on one goal at a time, and remember that recovery is a process. Support from others can help. Ask your doctor or look online for self-help groups and other resources.

What puts you at risk for gambling disorder?

What causes gambling disorder isn't clear, but certain things put people at higher risk. For example, it seems to run in families. It's more common in people who have other mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, or an alcohol or drug addiction (substance use disorder).

What is gambling disorder?

Gambling disorder is a strong urge to gamble, even though it causes serious problems. You may feel that you can't control your gambling in spite of its impact on your finances, relationships, or self-esteem. It's a type of addiction. It may also be called problem gambling.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.