Gambling involves risking something of value (money, possessions or one’s self) on an event with some element of randomness and/or chance. The event could be as simple as flipping a coin or as complex as a poker game. Gambling can be an enjoyable pastime for many people but, when it becomes harmful, it can affect a person’s mental health and relationships with family and friends.
When someone is addicted to gambling, their brain is constantly seeking rewards and this can interfere with normal thought processes. The addiction can cause stress that can lead to an eating disorder, alcohol abuse or drug dependency. It can also impact on their career, education and personal relationships.
Getting help for gambling addiction can improve these aspects of life. It can help a person recover by managing their finances and credit, and they can start to make healthy choices about money and spending. It is important for the gambler to seek therapy as part of their recovery, to help them address the underlying issues that contributed to their gambling problem and to gain better control of their thoughts, emotions and behaviour.
The best way to combat the urge to gamble is to plan ahead and stay within your budget. It is a good idea to only gamble with disposable income and never use money that you need for bills and rent. It is also helpful to schedule time for other activities and to avoid gambling when you are tired or stressed. It is easy to lose track of time in a casino, especially without clocks or windows, so set an alarm and when it goes off, stop gambling.
A relapse is common in recovering from gambling addiction and it is important that the gambler understands this. They may feel tempted to return to the activity as it seems like a quick and easy way to make money but this is not the case. The relapse can be a valuable lesson for the gambler, helping them to learn about their triggers and identify what is causing their behaviour.
Strengthening your support network can help you overcome the lure of gambling. This includes reaching out to new friends, reducing your exposure to gambling venues and avoiding triggers, such as taking an alternative route home from work if you normally pass casinos, or changing the channel on your TV if you find yourself watching sports. You can also reduce financial risk by limiting credit cards and carrying only essential cash with you.
It is important for friends and family members to recognise that they cannot control the behaviour of a loved one who is addicted to gambling. However, they can take steps to protect their own finances, such as separating bank accounts and putting valuables in safe deposit boxes. They can also get legal and financial advice. They can also seek peer support by attending a Gamblers Anonymous meeting and/or a family therapy and marriage, career or debt counselling service.