How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is a popular recreational activity, but it can also lead to financial ruin and personal devastation. It draws on the human need for fantasy, riches, and moments of grandeur, and it can result in criminal behavior and family discord. It has powerful advocates and opponents, but it is widely accepted that the risks far outweigh the rewards.

Although gambling can take many forms, it always involves risking something of value in an attempt to win something else of value. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history, and it is incorporated into local customs, rituals, and rites of passage. Some forms of gambling have become legalized and regulated, while others remain illegal.

Problem gambling is characterized by several key warning signs, which include: (1) frequent feelings of being powerless to control or stop one’s gambling; (2) lying to family members or therapists about the extent of involvement in gambling; (3) frequently returning another day in an attempt to get even (“chasing” losses); (4) loss of interest in hobbies and other activities; (5) reckless spending and/or excessive credit card use; (6) serious depression; and (7) criminal activity (e.g., theft, embezzlement, forgery) to fund gambling. These warning signs are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association’s official guide to psychological disorders.

Despite the fact that gambling is an activity based on chance, it is not considered a game of skill. To be classified as a game of skill, it must require a level of competence and intentionality that is not found in the case of gambling. Furthermore, a player must have a reasonable expectation of winning in order to be considered to be engaged in a game of skill.

There are a number of ways to help a person overcome a gambling addiction, including:

Establish a fixed amount of money that you’re willing to lose, and don’t exceed it. Don’t gamble when you’re tired or upset, and don’t try to make up for lost time by gambling later on. Never drink alcohol while you’re gambling, and never tip your dealer with cash; only chip tips are acceptable.

Get support from friends and family, and consider therapy or treatment programs aimed at helping people with gambling problems. These may include outpatient treatment, residential treatment, or peer-led recovery groups like Gamlers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Also, look into strengthening your support network by finding new friends, joining a book club or sports team, volunteering for a worthy cause, or enrolling in an education or career class. Finally, consider inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs, which are designed for those with severe gambling addictions that cannot be addressed without round-the-clock treatment and support.