Gambling is an activity in which people stake something of value (usually money) on an event whose outcome is uncertain. It is a risky activity and it can lead to significant losses, as well as emotional and psychological harm.
Gamblers typically bet on sporting events, games of chance or games of skill, and the winner is awarded a prize. The amount of money involved can vary from a few dollars to millions. In some forms of gambling, the stakes are not money but objects such as marbles, poker chips or Magic: The Gathering cards.
The first step to overcoming a gambling problem is to acknowledge that you have a problem and seek help. Depending on the severity of your situation, you may need to seek treatment at an addictions clinic or go through detox. Treatment options include cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) for gambling addiction and other mental health problems, family therapy and psychotherapy, and medication.
CBT for gambling addiction teaches you how to change unhealthy behaviors and thoughts about gambling, such as rationalizing your actions or believing that you aren’t a bad person for losing money. It also helps you learn how to solve the financial, work and relationship problems caused by gambling.
For most people, gambling is a harmless recreational activity, but for some it can become addictive and cause significant problems. Problem gamblers can lose their money and their homes, ruin their relationships, fail at school or work and even get into legal trouble. Many also suffer from depression, anxiety and other mental health issues, which can make it even more difficult to stop gambling.
If you are struggling with gambling, talk to a counsellor. It’s free, confidential and available 24/7. Find a support network and try to avoid gambling venues and online gambling sites. Try to fill the void that gambling has left in your life with new activities, hobbies and socialising with friends. Ensure you have control over your money and only gamble with funds that you can afford to lose. See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’.
Managing money is a key aspect of responsible gambling and it is important to set limits on the amount you can spend each day, week or month. This will prevent you from spending more than you can afford to lose and keep you from getting into debt or chasing your losses.
It is also important to avoid alcohol and drugs as they can reduce your ability to resist the urge to gamble. Some people even develop a gambling addiction after suffering from substance abuse or another mental health condition. If you’re concerned that your loved one is struggling with gambling, reach out to a counsellor for support.