Gambling involves risking money or something else of value on the outcome of a random event. The activity may be conducted legally or illegally. It can involve betting on sports events, playing card games, spinning the reels of a slot machine or placing bets with friends. In most cases, the odds are against you and you will lose. But in some cases the habit can get out of hand and lead to serious financial, family and health problems. If you are worried about your own gambling or that of someone close to you, there is help available.
In some cases the problem is triggered by mood disorders like depression, stress or substance abuse. These can also make it harder to stop gambling. It is important to seek treatment for these underlying conditions before trying to stop gambling.
People gamble for a variety of reasons: to win cash, for the adrenaline rush or to socialise. But if the urge to gamble takes over and you start spending more than you can afford or borrowing to fund your gambling, you may have a problem. This is called compulsive gambling or gambling addiction and it can have devastating effects on your finances, relationships and work life.
There is no single answer for how to treat gambling addiction. It is a complex and personal issue, but some treatments that have been shown to be effective include cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to resist unwanted thoughts or habits. Addicts learn to confront irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of losses or a near miss—like two out of three cherries on a slot machine—will soon yield a jackpot.
Other treatment approaches involve reducing the risks involved in gambling, such as taking steps to reduce the amount of money you bet or limiting the number of times you play. Support groups are also an option. Gamblers Anonymous, for example, is a 12-step recovery program modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous and is designed to help people overcome their addiction to gambling.
A variety of other self-help tips are also available. These include setting limits on how much money you will bet and learning to walk away from a game when you are losing. It is also a good idea to try and find healthier ways to relieve boredom or unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.
You should also be careful when using credit cards or loans to fund gambling, and limit your access to gambling venues. Finally, it is a good idea to talk about your gambling problems with a trusted friend or professional counsellor. This will help you come up with a plan for how to reduce or quit gambling, and will give you a supportive ear when things are tough.