Gambling is any activity in which an individual stakes something of value (like money or possessions) on an event whose outcome is uncertain, with the hope of winning more than they have risked. It can happen in places like casinos and racetracks, but also at gas stations, church halls, and sporting events. Often, people gamble for fun and enjoy the rush when things turn out well, but there are also cases of pathological gambling (PG), which can cause serious problems with relationships, jobs, and finances.
PG is a mental health condition that affects about 0.1-4.6% of Americans. It begins in adolescence or young adulthood and can last several years. Men tend to develop PG at a faster rate than women, and they tend to start gambling earlier. Those with PG are more likely to have trouble with strategic or “face-to-face” forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, than with nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.
The most common symptom of a gambling problem is a negative change in attitude toward gambling. People who begin to think of gambling as an evil or dangerous hobby lose interest in other activities and are more prone to depression, anxiety, and other mental health conditions. They may also experience financial problems as a result of their gambling habits, and this can lead to debt and bankruptcy.
Some people find relief from their PG by attending therapy, joining a support group, or getting help from a family therapist. The most important step, however, is acknowledging that you have a problem and seeking help. It is a difficult step, especially for those who have lost a lot of money and suffered strained or broken relationships as a result of their gambling addiction.
Tips to prevent a gambling addiction
Keeping your spending under control is one of the best ways to stop gambling from becoming a problem. Set a budget before you go gambling, and make sure to stick to it. Make it a rule to only gamble with cash and not credit, and do not spend more than you are willing to win. Make a habit of leaving when you reach your time limit, whether you are winning or losing. Avoid gambling when you are feeling stressed or upset.
It is important to remember that gambling should be a form of entertainment, not a source of income or security. Try to keep other hobbies and interests as a way to have fun, or use them as a distraction when the urge to gamble arises. If you find it difficult to resist the temptation, try exercising, reaching out to friends and family, or attending a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also contact a debt counselor for free, confidential advice on how to deal with debt related to your gambling. Taking action now can help you build a brighter future and overcome your gambling addiction.