How to Prevent a Gambling Problem

A form of entertainment, gambling involves placing a bet on an event or game in the hope of winning money or other prizes. It may be a fun pastime for some, but for others, it can become a serious problem causing harm to their health and finances. Many people have lost their homes, jobs and relationships because of gambling problems. The good news is that there are many ways to help if you or someone you know has a gambling problem.

In addition to real money, some forms of gambling involve material items that have a value, but are not necessarily cash. For instance, players of marbles games can wager marbles, and gamers in the Magic: The Gathering and Pogs collectible card games can wager small discs and trading cards. In a recent decision, the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling from its classification as a compulsion to that of an addictive disorder in the latest edition of its diagnostic manual. The move reflects new research into the biological basis of addiction and is expected to improve the treatment of people who can’t control their gambling behavior.

Often, the first step to stopping a gambling problem is for the individual to realize that they have a problem. This can be hard for individuals to admit, especially if they feel they are just “lucky” and should continue playing to try to get back their losses. This is known as the gambler’s fallacy, and it can lead to big losses if not stopped in time.

To prevent a gambling problem, individuals should never gamble with money they cannot afford to lose. They should set their own personal limits for how much money they can spend and stop as soon as they reach those limits. They should also avoid activities that have a high probability of losing money, such as horse racing and casino games. Also, they should not chase their losses – thinking that they will get lucky again and recoup their losses – as this usually leads to bigger losses.

The elderly are at particular risk for developing a gambling disorder, as they may have little income and are often living alone. However, a senior’s family can play an important role in preventing a gambling disorder by having open conversations about the purpose of gambling and setting reasonable amounts of money to be spent. Families should also discuss the warning signs of gambling disorders and educate all family members on how to respond if they notice a problem.

Gambling is a popular activity, and many people enjoy it as a leisure pursuit. But for some, it becomes an obsession that damages their physical and mental health, affects their relationships, performance at work or study, and can leave them in debt or even homeless. In some cases, it can even lead to thoughts of suicide. If you’re concerned that your gambling is out of control, speak to StepChange for free debt advice.