Breaking the Gambling Cycle

Gambling is an activity in which a person stakes something of value (money, property or items of sentimental worth) on an event of chance. It does not include bona fide business transactions, such as buying or selling at a future date of securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health and accident insurance. Depending on the way in which it is undertaken, gambling can be a socially acceptable pastime or a serious problem that impacts upon a person’s wellbeing, relationships and career and can lead to debt, crime, homelessness and suicide.

People with a gambling disorder often have an underactive brain reward system and are more likely to experience thrill-seeking behaviours or impulsivity. A combination of factors may result in an addiction to gambling, including genetic predisposition, social and environmental influences and a variety of mental health conditions.

Problem gambling can affect anyone, regardless of their social status, age or gender. It can damage your physical and mental health, harm your family and friends, prevent you from working or studying and make it difficult to sleep. It can also lead to serious financial problems and even cause bankruptcy.

Those with a gambling problem can be reluctant to admit they have a problem and may hide their activities from others. There is also a risk that if you are around other people who gamble, you will be influenced and may find it harder to resist the temptation.

Many gambling services offer support, counselling and help for people who are concerned about their own gambling or the gambling of a friend or relative. These organisations can help you to overcome a gambling problem, reduce your gambling or stop it altogether and offer advice on other ways of dealing with issues such as depression, debt and stress.

The first step in breaking the cycle of gambling is to recognise that there is a problem and to take action. You can do this by calling a hotline or attending a support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also get rid of credit cards, have someone else be in charge of your money, close your online betting accounts and keep only a small amount of cash on you. You can also try distracting yourself by doing something completely different, such as exercising or phoning a friend. Getting rid of the temptation can be the hardest part, but once you start to feel better it becomes easier to break the gambling habit. You should also seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may be making the gambling worse, such as depression, anxiety or stress. You can do this through talking therapy, which is a form of psychodynamic psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and/or group therapy. These therapies can be used alone or in combination and are a good choice for those with a gambling disorder.