Gambling occurs when you stake something of value, such as money or other valuables, on an uncertain event with an outcome that is at least partly determined by chance. It is a risky activity, and while most people gamble without problem, it can lead to serious harm for some. People who have a gambling disorder experience persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior that cause significant distress or impairment. Pathological gambling (PG) is a mental health condition that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychiatric Disorders, Fifth Edition, as a behavioral addiction. People with PG are unable to control their impulses and have difficulty maintaining healthy spending and saving habits. Almost 2% of Americans meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PG, and the condition is more common in men than in women. PG often begins during adolescence or young adulthood and can continue throughout life.
While gambling is often associated with casinos, racetracks, and sports events, it can happen anywhere. It’s even possible to win a prize in a lottery or buy tickets for a sweepstakes on the Internet. The first step in recognizing a gambling problem is admitting that you have one. You can also ask for help from family and friends, or consider counseling to understand the issue and think about ways to deal with it.
The most important thing is to set aside a fixed amount of money that you’re willing to lose before gambling. You can do this by allocating a portion of your disposable income to entertainment, and then using the rest for other expenses. Casinos are notorious for their lack of clocks and windows, making it easy to gamble for a long time without realizing it. It’s also helpful to make a schedule for yourself that includes specific times you plan to stop gambling.
The biggest hurdle in overcoming a gambling problem is recognizing that you have one. This takes tremendous strength and courage, especially if you’ve lost large sums of money or suffered strained or broken relationships due to your gambling behavior. It’s also important to seek support from family and friends, or join a support group for problem gamblers. You can also find help online by searching for a counselor who specializes in gambling disorders. The world’s largest therapy service can match you with a professional, licensed and vetted therapist in as little as 48 hours. Start by answering a few short questions, and get on your way to finding help for your gambling disorder today.