How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is a risky behavior in which something of value (consideration) is placed on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value. Examples of gambling include betting on a horse race, placing a bet in a lottery drawing, playing slot machines or video poker, and purchasing scratch-off tickets. In cases of gambling addiction, the prize isn’t money – it’s an emotional fixation with winning. A person addicted to gambling can lose everything, including relationships and their self-esteem. The desire to win a jackpot can become an obsession that causes compulsive behaviors such as lying, spending, and borrowing.

Problem gamblers often try to justify their behaviors by blaming others or convincing themselves that they can overcome the addiction with just one more big win. While this belief may seem logical, it isn’t true. Despite being the most popular form of recreational gambling in the United States, there are no guarantees when you gamble. In fact, the odds of losing are much higher than winning.

Those who are most at risk for developing a gambling disorder are low-income, young people, and men. Vulnerability is also increased by having a family history of gambling disorder or mental illness. Those with a gambling addiction can develop an array of problems, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

Many people with gambling addictions spend significant amounts of time in gambling venues, and may form friendships with other gamblers. These relationships can be unhealthy if the gamblers rely on each other to loan money or recoup losses. In addition, people who gamble frequently may have difficulty balancing work and family commitments.

A common way to reduce the impact of gambling is by avoiding or reducing triggers. This can be done by identifying and altering negative thinking habits, such as the illusion of control and the gambler’s fallacy. Also, it is important to set boundaries in managing family finances, by limiting the amount of cash kept at home, and by reviewing bank and credit card statements.

It’s important for family members and friends to recognize that they cannot be in charge of a loved one’s gambling. They can, however, help their struggling friend by being supportive and encouraging. This can be difficult if the gambler is resentful, argumentative, or even irrational in their requests for “just one last chance.” It’s important for family members and friends of those with a gambling addiction to practice self-care by building a support network and participating in healthy activities. In addition, they can find local referral resources for a certified gambling counselor or intensive treatment programs. They can also join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key step in the program is finding a sponsor, or former gambler with experience remaining free from gambling. The organization offers both online and face-to-face meetings. The sponsor is there to offer guidance and support. They can also offer an unbiased perspective to the gambler.