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How to Stop Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event, such as a scratch-off ticket, lottery game, or horse race, with the intention of winning money or another prize. Some games involve skill that can improve the chances of winning, such as poker or blackjack, while others are purely random and have no skill component at all.

Historically, gambling has been considered an addictive behavior and has been treated as a psychiatric disorder. However, the onset and severity of problems vary considerably between individuals. Therefore, there is no generally accepted diagnostic tool for the disorder, and some people who have serious problems with gambling do not meet criteria for pathological gamblers as defined by psychiatry.

Some individuals are unable to control their gambling behavior and experience distressing effects, including family discord, work problems, debt, and legal difficulties. In addition, gambling can cause psychological problems such as depression and anxiety, which may be exacerbated by the loss of money or other assets gained through gambling. Many people with gambling problems hide their gambling from others or lie about it, which can add to the stress and strain in their lives.

The reason for a person’s gambling behavior may be social, financial, or entertainment-based. For example, some people play cards or other games for a social group and try to win money, while others bet on the outcome of sports events, such as football or horse races, for the thrill of winning or for the excitement that comes with betting on the favorite team. Regardless of the motivation, there are steps that can be taken to reduce or stop problem gambling.

Consider professional help. There are a variety of effective treatment options, including individual and group counseling, education about the disease of compulsive gambling, and inpatient or residential rehab programs. Individuals can also find support groups for people with gambling disorders, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.

Understand that the brain’s response to gambling is similar to the way it responds to certain drugs of abuse. The brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter, when a gambler wins and loses, creating an artificial high. This chemical reaction may explain why people who have a problem with gambling find it hard to stop.

Encourage your loved one to seek professional help if they are struggling with gambling. There are a number of effective treatments available, including family therapy and marriage or career counseling, to help address the specific issues that have caused or made worse their gambling addiction. Also, learn about the brain science behind gambling and how it works, so that you can better understand your loved one’s struggles and offer support. This can also help you to stay calm and avoid blaming them for their problems.