How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves placing something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, with an intention to win. It does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as the purchase or sale at a future date of securities or commodities, or agreements for indemnity or guaranty (such as life, health, and accident insurance).

Gamblers often bet against themselves by taking bets that exceed their means to lose. They also exhibit a number of cognitive and motivational biases that distort the odds they perceive. These biases can contribute to the addictive nature of gambling.

It is estimated that 2.5 million U.S. adults (1%) have a severe gambling problem. Another 5-8 million (2-3%) have mild to moderate gambling problems. Despite the common perception that people with gambling disorders are impulsive, research shows that most gamblers make informed choices.

Many types of gambling are played in the United States, including card games, video poker and slot machines, roulette and other casino games, and horse and dog racing. Some types of gambling involve a skill element, such as blackjack, and others are pure chance, such as football accumulators or scratchcards. Some forms of gambling are legal, while others are illegal.

The first step to overcoming a gambling addiction is realizing that you have a problem. It takes a lot of strength and courage to admit that you’re struggling, especially when you’ve lost money and strained or broken relationships as a result of your habit.

If you’re ready to take the next step, there are a variety of treatment and recovery options. You can seek help from a counselor or therapist, or enroll in a recovery program, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which uses peer support to help recovering gamblers. Other effective treatments include exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Keeping your gambling habits in check is important to staying healthy. To avoid overspending, set a spending limit before you go to the casino and stick to it. It’s also helpful to keep a budget for the night or weekend, and don’t spend more than you can afford to lose. Also, remember to tip your dealers and cocktail waitresses. They may not be getting much from the tables, but they’ll appreciate the extra income. You should also be sure to wash your hands before handling cash or chips. It will prevent germs from spreading. And never drink and gamble — it’s dangerous. Even a single drink can impair your judgment and lead to reckless betting.