How to Recognize If You Have a Gambling Problem


Gambling is an activity where people stake something valuable (like money or property) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and has the potential to yield a prize. It’s important to note that gambling is not just about slot machines and casinos – you can also place bets on sports events, lottery tickets or scratch-off games.

While gambling can trigger feelings of excitement and euphoria, it’s important to remember that all forms of gambling are risky. People who gamble risk losing the money or property they put up and, more importantly, run the risk of ruining their lives. If you’re struggling with a gambling problem, counseling can help. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists. Take our free assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.

The most obvious sign of a gambling addiction is spending more and more of your disposable income on gambling, often to the point that it affects your daily life. You might find yourself lying to family and friends about your spending, borrowing money or using credit card rewards to fund your gambling habit. You might even find yourself avoiding work or social activities to gamble.

It’s also important to understand the brain science of gambling and the factors that can trigger problematic behavior. For instance, when you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited and happy. However, this neurological response occurs whether you win or lose. This can make you feel compelled to continue gambling, especially when you’re winning.

A gambling addiction can lead to financial problems, debt and even bankruptcy. In addition, it can wreak havoc on relationships and careers. In severe cases, it can even cause mental health issues like depression or anxiety.

Getting help for a gambling problem is the first step to recovery. But it’s not easy to admit you have a problem, particularly if you’ve lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships in the process. There are several treatment options available for those with gambling disorders, including outpatient and residential programs modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous.

To prevent yourself from gambling too much, start by establishing a budget for the amount of money you’re willing to spend and stick to it. It’s also helpful to have an accountability partner, someone who will remind you of your budget and commitment when you feel the urge to gamble. You can also try putting your allotted gambling money into an envelope so that you don’t accidentally use it on other expenses. Also, it helps to set a timer when you’re in a casino so that you don’t end up gambling for an extended period of time. This is especially useful when casinos are without clocks and windows. Then, when the alarm goes off, you know it’s time to leave. It is also a good idea to play with cash only, as this will help you stay focused and avoid temptation.