How to Stop Gambling

Gambling involves risking money or material possessions on the outcome of an event that is uncertain. This element of uncertainty, whether derived from the roll of dice, the spin of a roulette wheel or the result of a horse race, has led many to view gambling as immoral and illegal. But in recent years, attitudes have softened and laws have been relaxed. Today, people are more likely to see gambling as a recreational activity, much like drinking Coca-Cola or watching football.

Despite these positive trends, gambling is still associated with negative feelings. In addition, for some, gambling can be addictive. Several organisations provide support and assistance to help people control their gambling or stop it altogether. These services may be based on peer support, such as Gamblers Anonymous, or a combination of therapy and counselling. They can also help people manage their gambling by teaching them healthy coping skills and providing alternative activities to replace the harmful ones.

The behaviours that characterise problem gambling can be recognised by the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). These include:

Using a high amount of money or other resources. Continuing to gamble even after significant losses. Increasing bet sizes and amounts of money lost in attempts to win back losses. Borrowing money to cover gambling expenses. Hiding betting or gambling activity from friends or family. Frequently feeling anxious or depressed.

A person can develop a gambling problem at any age, but it is more common in younger adults. Some experts believe this is because young people have more difficulty controlling their emotions and impulses, and because of the prevalence of social media where they can be exposed to gambling advertisements and encouragement from peers. The behaviour can also be exacerbated by stressful life events, such as separation or divorce.

In addition to reducing exposure, it is important to identify what triggers gambling urges and find healthier ways to cope with unpleasant feelings or boredom. Some people gamble to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, relieve boredom or as a way to unwind after a difficult day at work. Other ways to do this include exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, participating in a hobby or practice relaxation techniques.

It is also important to limit gambling to disposable income and to remove credit or debit cards from the ‘autofill’ function on phones or other devices that could allow for impulsive gambling. It is also worth putting aside a set amount of money that you will not use for anything other than recreation and to make sure that this does not include the costs of paying bills or rent. Finally, it is important to recognise that gambling is not a reliable way to make money and that the odds are always against you.