How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Whether it is buying a lottery ticket, placing a bet on the pokies or sports event or playing a casino game, gambling is an activity wherein people wager something of value on an uncertain outcome. It requires a mixture of chance and skill, but the primary motivation for gambling is usually to win more money or material goods.

Research shows that some people are prone to developing problematic gambling habits. People who have a genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking behaviour and poor impulse control may be more vulnerable to gambling addiction. In addition, some communities consider gambling a normal pastime and it can be difficult to recognize a problem when it is present.

Problematic gambling (PG) refers to a set of maladaptive patterns of behavior that causes significant distress and interferes with the person’s ability to function well. Those who are PG often exhibit multiple risk factors and it is generally accepted that the condition begins in adolescence or young adulthood. Pathological gamblers are also more likely to be male and report problems with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as online or slots.

Gambling can cause significant personal and professional problems and a plethora of symptoms, such as:

Symptoms include a decreased interest in friends, family and other activities; spending a large amount of time engaged in gambling-related activities; lying to others to conceal the extent to which they are involved with gambling; returning another day to try to get even after a loss (“chasing” losses); jeopardizing or losing a job, education or career opportunity because of gambling; and committing illegal acts to finance gambling (forgery, fraud, theft, embezzlement) (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

In order to overcome a gambling addiction, it is important to understand the reasons why you gamble. It is often a coping mechanism for feelings of stress and anxiety, so it’s best to seek therapy to tackle those root issues. It is also necessary to set limits and budget your gambling expenses. Only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and don’t use your savings or money that you need for bills or rent. Moreover, it is helpful to join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model used by Alcoholics Anonymous. This will provide you with the guidance and support needed to change your gambling behavior. This is a tough process and you might slip from time to time, but it is important to remain persistent and to be patient with yourself. Ultimately, it will be worth the effort.

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