Gambling is a risky activity that can be very addictive. It can lead to financial hardship and ruin personal relationships, and it may cause emotional turmoil as well. The first step toward overcoming gambling problems is realizing that you have a problem and seeking help. Fortunately, there are many treatment options, including cognitive behavioral therapy and family therapy. Some people with gambling disorders also benefit from peer support groups like Gamblers Anonymous. For additional help, some states have special helplines and a National Helpline.

Problem gambling can begin at any age and affect both men and women. It often runs in families and is associated with other mental health conditions, such as a history of trauma or social inequality. In addition, it may be exacerbated by stressful events or circumstances such as loss of a job or legal trouble. It can even lead to drug and alcohol addiction.

Some characteristics of pathological gambling include: (1) being preoccupied with gambling, (2) having a persistent desire or need to gamble, (3) lying to family members or therapists about how much money is spent on gambling, (4) spending more time and energy on gambling than on other activities, (5) engaging in illegal acts, such as forgery or theft, to fund a gambling habit, (6) betting more than the amount you can afford to lose, and (7) returning another day to try to make up for past losses (“chasing” your losses). It is important to seek professional help if you have these symptoms.

Longitudinal studies can provide valuable information about the etiology and maintenance of gambling disorder, but they are difficult to conduct. The expense required for such a study can be prohibitive, and the difficulty of maintaining research team continuity over a long period of time can lead to attrition and confounding effects (e.g., the effect of aging on behavior).

Although many people with gambling disorders are able to control their problems on their own, some people need additional support. If your loved one is exhibiting symptoms of gambling disorder, it’s important to reach out for help. Seek counseling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy or psychodynamic therapy. A therapist can help you address the underlying issues that contribute to your gambling problems and develop strategies for preventing relapse. Additionally, you can strengthen your support network by making new friends who don’t gamble and participating in recreational activities that don’t involve money, such as taking up a hobby or attending an educational class. Finally, you can join a support group for families affected by gambling disorders, such as Gam-Anon.