Whether buying a lottery ticket, betting on sports events or playing video poker, gambling is risking something of value for the chance to win something else of value. It can happen in casinos, racetracks, gas stations and online. Often people gamble to have fun or escape from everyday life, but it can also become a serious addiction.
Compulsive gambling can be difficult to admit as a problem, especially when it has cost you money and strained relationships. But it is possible to overcome this disorder, and you are not alone. Many people have recovered from gambling addiction, and there are resources available to help you.
A lot of people think they are not addicted to gambling because they have only a few wins. However, this is a mistake. The reality is that even a few wins can lead to gambling addiction. The reason for this is that gambling products are designed to keep you gambling. They offer false impressions of skill, so that people will continue to play, even after they have lost. The gaming industry promotes their products by advertising on TV, social media and wall-to-wall sponsorship of football clubs.
Research shows that gambling is addictive because of the release of dopamine in the brain, similar to what happens when taking drugs of abuse. This dopamine is released when you lose and when you think you can win. The problem is that most people do not stop after a small loss and the more you lose, the more you want to win back your losses. This behavior is known as chasing your losses.
If you are worried that someone you know is struggling with a gambling addiction, it is important to seek professional advice. You can also ask for help yourself. You could start by writing down the reasons you gamble and identifying any irrational beliefs you have about gambling. Alternatively, you might try cognitive-behavioral therapy to learn how to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. For example, a therapist can teach you to challenge your belief that a string of losses or a near miss on a slot machine will indicate an imminent win.
It is also important to set financial boundaries, removing access to credit cards, putting another person in charge of your money and closing online accounts. Seek support from friends and family, and consider joining a peer support group for addicts such as Gamblers Anonymous. In addition, physical activity can help reduce cravings and relieve stress. Finally, be sure to address any underlying mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which can trigger or worsen compulsive gambling. With time and persistence, you can recover from gambling addiction. The first step is realising you have a problem, and the second is reaching out for help. It is not easy, but it is possible. Then you can start to rebuild your life.