Dealing With Gambling Addiction


Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity that is primarily random in the hope of winning a prize. It is a part of human history, and although most people gamble for fun, a small number become too seriously involved, to the point that their gambling causes negative personal, social, and financial consequences.

Different types of gambling are distinguished by their phenomenology, but there are certain common features that distinguish problem gambling from recreational gambling. For example, problem gamblers often exhibit a compulsive need to gamble, even when the risks outweigh the rewards. They also tend to engage in several types of gambling, and they may play multiple games simultaneously. Additionally, many problem gamblers are unable to control their spending.

The most obvious form of gambling is placing a bet on a sporting event, but there are other forms, too. For instance, people who play online poker or blackjack are engaging in gambling, as is betting on horse races and fantasy sports leagues. In fact, most activities that involve a choice and the opportunity to win or lose are considered gambling if the stakes are high enough.

Most people gamble for entertainment or to try to make money, but when a person’s gambling becomes problematic, it can start to replace other ways of meeting their needs. When a person’s needs are met through gambling, they can feel a sense of fulfillment and excitement, but the relief is short lived.

Problematic gambling can also alter the brain’s reward pathways, making it harder to stop the behavior. It is also possible for gambling to be used as a way to escape reality, but that relief is only temporary and it can actually increase stress levels.

If a person is arrested for gambling-related crimes, they may be sentenced to jail time or fines. Misdemeanor convictions typically result in up to a year in county or local jail, while felony convictions can lead to prison sentences of up to a decade. In addition to jail or prison time, a court may order that the person participate in a treatment program and avoid gambling altogether.

Coping with a loved one’s gambling addiction can be very difficult. When a person has a problem, they may become defensive and try to rationalize their requests for “just this one last time.” It is important to remember that they did not choose to gamble excessively, and they probably do not realize how bad it has become for them.

It is important to strengthen a person’s support network and find new ways of relieving boredom or stress. This could include exercising, hanging out with friends who don’t gamble, taking up a hobby or learning a new skill, or finding a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous. It is also helpful to set boundaries in managing money and to establish a plan for preventing gambling relapses. In extreme cases, residential treatment or rehab programs may be necessary. The most important thing is to take action, and never give up!