Gambling is a common pastime worldwide, with a rough estimate of $10 trillion legal wagers placed each year (illegal gambling may exceed this amount). Whether playing the lottery, placing a bet on a sports team, or purchasing a scratchcard, the goal of gambling is to win money. However, some people develop a habit of gambling that can have serious consequences for their health, finances, and relationships.
The first step to overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that you have a problem. This is often the hardest part, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or your gambling has strained or even broken your relationships. However, it is essential to recognize the problem and seek help before the gambling behavior escalates further.
If you’re not able to stop gambling, try setting limits for yourself. For example, only gamble with cash that you can afford to lose and don’t use credit cards or online betting accounts. Also, be sure to set a time limit for yourself and leave when you reach it. Also, don’t play while you’re upset or depressed. Instead, find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions like exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying relaxation techniques.
Another way to overcome a gambling addiction is to change your thinking patterns. Problematic gambling can lead to thoughts like “I’m due for a win,” or, “If I just put in one more bet, I’ll get my money back.” This is called chasing your losses and it’s not only dangerous for your financial health, but it’s psychologically toxic as well.
Longitudinal studies are also helpful in understanding the onset and maintenance of pathological gambling. These studies follow a group of individuals over a period of years to observe their gambling behaviors and determine how they change with age and other factors such as life events. Those who have a comorbid diagnosis of depression and gambling can benefit from specialized treatment.
In addition to therapy and other forms of behavioral treatment, many addicts benefit from peer support groups. Often, these are modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and include finding a sponsor, someone with experience in the process of recovery, to guide them. A sponsor can provide support, help them stay on track with their recovery goals, and offer advice on how to deal with triggers. In severe cases, inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs are available. These can be helpful for those who are unable to control their gambling addiction without round-the-clock help and supervision. Ultimately, the key to recovery is having the support of family and friends and a strong commitment to recovery. If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, reach out to a therapist and start on the road to recovery today!