Gambling is a topic that splits people. Some believe it should be illegal and others think it’s ok as long as it’s regulated. Whichever side of the fence you’re on, there’s no denying that gambling is an addictive habit for some people. If you gamble more than you can afford to lose or have thoughts of suicide, you should seek help. There are many treatment options available.

Most of us will have gambled at one time or another, whether it’s on the roulette wheel, in a casino or on the horse races. Often, we do it for fun and to socialise with friends or as a way to relieve stress and anxiety. For most people it’s harmless, but for some it can be a serious problem and lead to depression, family problems or even addiction. If you’re thinking of gambling, it’s always best to gamble responsibly and within your means, never with money that you need for bills or food and never chase your losses.

If you have a gambling problem, your doctor can refer you for specialist help. The main treatment is psychotherapy, which involves talking with a mental health professional to help you understand your unhealthy habits and change them. There are several types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps you challenge your irrational beliefs around gambling and teaches you healthier ways to manage your moods. It’s also possible to find group support, which can be a helpful source of moral support.

Scientists are currently investigating the possibility that some forms of gambling may trigger a similar response in the brain to that of certain drugs of abuse, by activating reward pathways. These changes in the brain are thought to be a contributing factor to addictive behaviours.

In the past, psychiatric experts have debated whether or not gambling is an addiction. However, since the introduction of the DSM-5 in May 2013, pathological gambling has been reclassified as an addictive disorder. This reclassification was intended to increase the credibility of gambling as an impulse control disorder, encourage awareness and screening for people with a gambling problem and promote research into effective treatment methods.

It’s important to know the signs and symptoms of a gambling problem, including lying about how much you’re spending on gambling, hiding evidence of your gambling activity and trying to make up for lost winnings by betting more. If you have any of these symptoms, it’s important to speak to your GP as soon as possible and get help.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications for gambling disorder, there are several treatments that can help. Cognitive behavioural therapy, for example, can teach you to resist unwanted thoughts and habits by challenging irrational beliefs such as believing that you’re more likely to win than you really are, or that certain rituals will bring you luck. It can also teach you healthy ways to manage your moods and address any other underlying mental health conditions that may be contributing to your gambling problems.