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How is Problem Gambling Treated?

Published: July 9, 2018

Gambling disorders can easily take over a person’s life, which is why it is so important to seek treatment. Unfortunately, treating problem gambling can be difficult—while it can be hard to admit to having a gambling disorder, acknowledging the problem is an important first step in the treatment process.

Treatment for gambling disorders may include these approaches:

Behavior therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy may be beneficial—behavior therapy teaches the gambler skills to reduce urges to gamble, while cognitive behavioral therapy replaces negative beliefs with healthy, positive ones. Self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can also be helpful.

Family members of people with a gambling disorder may also benefit from counseling, even if the gambler is unwilling to participate in therapy.

Antidepressants and mood stabilizers are sometimes given for problems that often go along with gambling disorders, including depression, OCD, and ADHD. Some antidepressants may be effective in reducing gambling behavior.

Relapse Prevention
Ultimately, it is up to the individual gambler to find ways to resist the urge to gamble and stay focused on recovery, such as:

  • Avoiding gambling altogether, as one bet typically leads to another and another
  • Admitting that it’s okay to ask for help, as sheer willpower isn’t enough to overcome a gambling problem
  • Asking a family member or friend for help following the treatment plan
  • Recognizing and avoiding situations that trigger the urge to bet
  • Contacting a mental health professional when the urge to gamble is strong

Even with treatment, some people may return to gambling, especially after spending time in gambling environments or with people who gamble. It is important for gamblers to remember that even though they may have trouble with recovery from time to time, it is a process and they should not give up.

To search for free counseling in your area, please call the Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-589-9966. Many more resources are also available on the Get Help page, including the Crisis Text Line, which is accessible 24-7 by texting 4hope to 741741.

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