Treating compulsive gambling can be challenging. That's partly because most people have a hard time admitting they have a problem. Yet a major component of treatment is working on acknowledging that you're a compulsive gambler.

If your family or your employer pressured you into therapy, you may find yourself resisting treatment. But treating a gambling problem can help you regain a sense of control — and perhaps help heal damaged relationships or finances.

Treatment for compulsive gambling may include these approaches:

  • Therapy. Behavior therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy may be beneficial. Behavior therapy uses systematic exposure to the behavior you want to unlearn and teaches you skills to reduce your urge to gamble. Cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying unhealthy, irrational and negative beliefs and replacing them with healthy, positive ones. Family therapy also may be helpful.
  • Medications. Antidepressants and mood stabilizers may help problems that often go along with compulsive gambling — such as depression, OCD or ADHD. Some antidepressants may be effective in reducing gambling behavior. Medications called narcotic antagonists, useful in treating substance abuse, may help treat compulsive gambling.
  • Self-help groups. Some people find that talking with others who have a gambling problem may be a helpful part of treatment. Ask your health care professional for advice on self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous and other resources.

Treatment for compulsive gambling may involve an outpatient program, inpatient program or a residential treatment program, depending on your needs and resources. Treatment for substance abuse, depression, anxiety or any other mental health disorder may be part of your treatment plan for compulsive gambling.

Relapse prevention

Even with treatment, you may return to gambling, especially if you spend time with people who gamble or you're in gambling environments. If you feel that you'll start gambling again, contact your mental health professional or sponsor right away to head off a relapse.

Oct. 22, 2016
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