Gambling involves placing something of value (money, time, energy) on an event with the potential to win a prize. It may be done at casinos, racetracks, or on the internet. Regardless of the venue or type of gambling, it is considered an addictive activity that can cause serious problems for some people. Fortunately, there are steps people can take to reduce or eliminate gambling addiction.
The biggest step is admitting that you have a problem. This is often difficult, especially if your problem has cost you money and/or strained relationships with family members or friends. However, many people with a gambling addiction have broken the habit and rebuilt their lives.
One of the most common reasons why gambling becomes addictive is because it triggers a reward response in the brain. When you place a bet, your brain releases dopamine (feel-good hormones), which gives you a temporary feeling of pleasure and happiness. However, this is a temporary feeling and it’s important to understand that gambling is not a viable way to achieve long-term happiness or success.
Another reason why gambling is addictive is that it provides an escape from unpleasant emotions and feelings. For example, some people gamble to relieve boredom or stress, while others do it to self-soothe after a bad day at work or following an argument with their spouse. Alternatively, you can find healthier and more productive ways to cope with these unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up new hobbies, or practicing relaxation techniques.
Identifying and avoiding triggers is another important strategy for overcoming a gambling addiction. For example, if your regular route to and from work passes a casino or you watch sports games on TV, try changing the channel or taking a different route. It’s also helpful to limit your access to credit cards and nonessential cash, so that you can’t spend more than you intend to.
If you’re tempted to gamble, set a limit for how long you want to play and leave when you reach that time limit, whether you’re winning or losing. Avoid playing when you’re depressed, upset, or in pain, as this can make it harder to make good decisions. Also, don’t try to win back your losses; this will only increase your losses and cause more emotional distress.
If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, seek professional help. Licensed therapists can help you overcome your addiction and teach you healthy coping strategies. Plus, they can teach you to recognize and challenge negative thinking patterns, such as the illusion of control, irrational beliefs, and the gambler’s fallacy. You can get matched with a therapist in less than 48 hours with our free therapist-match service. Just answer a few simple questions, and we’ll match you with someone who is qualified to meet your needs. It’s completely confidential, and there are no fees to use the service. Start now!