Gambling involves putting something of value at risk on an event that is largely unpredictable, with the intent of winning something else of value. It includes any activity that involves a bet or wager, whether it is playing cards, fruit machines, online gambling games, betting on sports events or the lottery. People may also gamble by speculating on business, insurance or stock markets. Whether you are winning or losing, gambling can be addictive and have serious consequences for your physical and mental health. It can damage your relationships and hurt your performance at work or study, get you into trouble with the law and lead to debt and homelessness. In severe cases, it can even kill you.
A person with pathological gambling (PG) is preoccupied by thoughts about gambling, spends excessive time and money on the behavior and cannot control their gambling. They often experience distressing emotions (e.g., helplessness, guilt, anxiety, depression) when they gamble, and they lie to family members, therapists or others to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling. They jeopardize a relationship, job, educational or career opportunity, or their finances in order to gamble and may even commit illegal acts, such as forgery or theft, to fund their gambling. They often use credit cards and loans to finance their gambling and are often in desperate financial situations.
The most important step in overcoming a gambling problem is admitting that you have one. It takes courage to acknowledge a problem, especially if it has cost you a lot of money and strained or destroyed your relationships. Fortunately, many people have been able to break their addiction and rebuild their lives. There are also a number of treatments that can help.
Treatment can include a combination of therapy, medications and self-help. Some of the most effective therapies for PG are cognitive-behavioral and interpersonal. Medications may be prescribed to help with certain symptoms, and antidepressants can be helpful for people who have depression or anxiety. Psychiatric consultations and support groups can also be very beneficial.
In addition to treatment, it is important to have healthy coping skills, set limits on how much you can spend and avoid gambling when you are feeling depressed or stressed. You should also avoid chasing your losses – the more you try to win back what you’ve lost, the more likely you are to lose more.
When you do decide to gamble, make sure that you only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and never borrow money to do so. Set a time limit and stick to it, and make sure that your gambling does not interfere with other hobbies or activities. It’s also a good idea to avoid gambling when you’re tired or hungry, as this can make you more reckless. Also, don’t gamble if you don’t understand the game. Taking the time to learn how to play a game before you place your bets will increase your chances of winning.