When Gambling Becomes a Problem


Gambling is a type of entertainment that involves taking risks for the chance of winning. It can be done through many different types of games, such as lotteries, scratch cards, sports betting and video poker. While it can be fun to try and win, it can be dangerous for some people who have an addiction or mental health issue. It is important to recognize when gambling becomes a problem and seek help if needed.

People who gamble can be vulnerable to developing a pathological gambling disorder (PGD). This is characterized by recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior and is often associated with negative consequences, such as debt and family problems. It can be a serious and debilitating disorder that affects the person’s daily functioning and may lead to legal issues such as bankruptcy, arrest or incarceration. Symptoms can begin as early as adolescence or young adulthood and are more common in men than women.

There are several treatments for PGD, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). CBT aims to change the way a person thinks and feels about gambling. It helps them to identify problematic beliefs about gambling, such as that they are more likely to win than they actually are or that certain rituals will bring luck. It also helps them to develop coping skills and learn healthier ways to manage stress and emotions.

Gambling is a psychologically addictive activity, and it can be difficult to quit. Many people do not realize they have a problem until they have lost large amounts of money and strained or broken relationships. It is important to talk about the problem with someone who won’t judge you, such as a friend or family member. Having someone to lean on during this time can be helpful and can give you the support you need to stop gambling.

It is important to never gamble with money that you need for other expenses, such as rent or bills. It is also important to set a limit for how much you want to spend and stick to it. Also, be aware of the environment you are in – casinos and other gambling venues often have free cocktails and other distractions that can cause you to lose track of time and spend more than you intended. Finally, if you have a habit of chasing losses, it is best to stop immediately. This is called the “gambler’s fallacy,” where you start to believe that you are due for a big win and will be able to make back all of your losses.

You can also find support in a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Another option is to speak with a professional counselor, who can offer family and marital counseling, career and credit counseling, and other forms of psychotherapy. If you have financial issues, StepChange can provide free and confidential debt advice. If you have a substance use issue, you can get help by calling a hotline or visiting an addiction treatment center.