Whether it’s placing a bet on a football match, buying a lottery ticket or playing a slot machine, gambling happens when you risk something valuable in the hope of winning a prize. But while a few lucky people can win big, many gamblers lose more than they can afford to lose. And for some, it can lead to a devastating financial crisis and even thoughts of suicide.
Problem gambling (PG) is the term used to describe an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite adverse consequences. PG can occur in both men and women, though it is more common among younger people. It’s estimated that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet criteria for a PG diagnosis. Often, it develops in adolescence or early adulthood and continues into later life. PG can affect any type of gambling, but it tends to be more prevalent in the more strategic and interpersonally interactive forms of gambling.
It is possible to recover from a gambling addiction, but it requires strong willpower and a commitment to change. The first step is to recognise that you have a problem. If you think you may have a gambling issue, it’s worth seeking help from a specialist support service.
Another important step is to remove temptation by taking steps such as getting rid of credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances, closing online betting accounts and keeping only a small amount of cash on you when you gamble. If you’re still struggling to stop gambling, try focusing on other activities that you enjoy or consider joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous.
It’s also important to remember that gambling is not a reliable way to make money, so only ever gamble with disposable income and never money you need to pay bills or rent. It’s also a good idea to set yourself a time limit before you go gambling and leave when you reach it, regardless of whether you’re winning or losing. And try to avoid chasing your losses – the more you try to win back what you’ve lost, the more likely you are to lose more. Finally, only gamble when you’re feeling happy and relaxed – don’t play if you’re stressed or upset. It’s easy to lose track of time when you’re gambling, especially in casinos where there are no clocks and windows. So be sure to set an alarm on your phone or watch the timer on your computer. It’s also a good idea not to gamble when you’re tired or hungry. Gambling when you’re sleepy or hungry can increase your chances of making a bad decision and potentially losing more money.