Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or something of value on the outcome of a random event. It can take many forms, from betting on sports to buying a lottery ticket. The objective of gambling is to win a prize, which can range from a small amount of money to a life-changing jackpot. People gamble for many reasons: for social or financial gain, to experience a rush or “high,” or as a way to pass time.
While some people may enjoy gambling, others have a problem. Pathological gambling (PG) is an addictive disorder that affects about 0.4-1.6% of Americans. PG causes serious harm to individuals and families, and it has been linked to other mental health problems. Symptoms include lying to family members or therapists, hiding money, and spending large amounts of time and/or money on gambling. Those with a PG problem often feel compelled to gamble even when they know they are in trouble.
There are several ways to get help for a gambling addiction. Seek the advice of a therapist or psychologist, who can evaluate your situation and recommend treatment options. It is also important to strengthen your support network. You may want to consider joining a book club, sports team, exercise class, or other hobby group, enrolling in education classes, or volunteering for a good cause. Alternatively, you can find a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous and provides invaluable guidance and encouragement.
The first step to overcoming a gambling addiction is to create boundaries. Start with a fixed amount of money that you’re willing to lose, and never play more than you can afford to lose. Make it a rule not to gamble on credit, and do not use money that you could need for bills or rent. Don’t spend time at the casino if you’re feeling stressed or down, and be sure to balance your gambling with other activities. Never chase your losses; the more you try to recoup your losses, the more you’ll lose.
While it’s tempting to gamble on the next big thing, be cautious and remember that you’re always taking a chance. The best way to reduce your risk is to set a money and time limit for yourself, and leave when you reach that limit. Avoid playing when you’re tired or depressed, and don’t drink excessively. Also, stay away from games that you don’t understand well. The more you struggle to grasp the rules of a game, the less likely you are to be successful. And, as always, never gamble when you’re hungry or thirsty. The free drinks at casinos aren’t there to save you, and they can lead to reckless decisions that will cost you.