How to Break an Addiction to Gambling


Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the intent to win a prize, whether money or another item of value. It includes activities such as playing bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, betting on sports events, or using the pokies at casinos. While some people consider gambling a fun and exciting activity, some people become addicted to it and can cause serious financial or health problems.

The addiction to gambling is a complex problem and may run in families, but there are also other factors that can provoke the disorder. It is known that certain people are at higher risk for developing gambling disorders, including those who experience trauma or have a history of depression. Many people who experience this disorder are unable to stop on their own and will need help from a qualified counselor.

When you gamble, your brain produces dopamine, a neurotransmitter that gives you a feeling of reward. This is why you feel excited when you win, but it can also keep you from knowing when to quit. This is why some people struggle with recognizing when it is time to stop, and why they often continue to gamble even after they have lost significant amounts of money.

In the past, psychiatrists tended to treat pathological gambling as a compulsion, but in recent years they have come to recognize that it is similar to other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (setting things on fire). This year, the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling from the compulsions section of its diagnostic manual to the addictions chapter, putting it alongside substance-related disorders like kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair pulling).

Although many people gamble for money, some use it to relieve unpleasant feelings or boredom by chasing losses, or to soothe their anxieties after a bad day at work or an argument with their spouse. There are healthy and effective ways to relieve these unpleasant emotions, including exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up a hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques.

The first step to breaking a gambling addiction is realizing that it’s a problem. Then you can take action to limit your gambling and seek help from a therapist, such as one of the experts who offer therapy online. Alternatively, you can join a support group for gambling addicts, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also find family counseling and credit-management advice, which can help you repair the damage caused by your loved one’s gambling habit. You might also want to consider taking over their money management, as this can make it easier for them to avoid gambling. However, it’s important to discuss this with them before you do so to ensure they understand the risks involved.