Gambling involves risking something of value (usually money) on an event with an element of chance. The event could be a lottery, card game, horse race, sport game or other activity that has the potential to yield a substantial prize. Some people can gamble casually, without becoming addicted or putting their financial health at risk. They might buy a Lotto ticket, place bets on horses or sporting events, play poker, use the pokies, or gamble on the internet.
However, for many people gambling becomes a dangerous and addictive behaviour that affects their physical and mental health and wellbeing. Often, it is a hidden addiction that can only be identified by working with a therapist or counsellor.
There are a number of treatment options available to help people overcome gambling problems. Residential gambling treatment programmes are often recommended for people who feel unable to control their urges, and can offer the time and space needed to begin recovery. In these programmes, people will have the opportunity to work through their gambling issues in group and one-to-one therapy sessions, seminars and workshops. They will learn to recognise triggers for unhealthy gambling and develop coping strategies for managing their addiction going forward.
Day treatment programmes – which involve a series of full or half-day therapy sessions, over a set period of time – are also an option for people who struggle with gambling. These programmes can be particularly useful for people who are unable to afford residential care, or who do not require the 24-hour support and structure of a residential programme. In day treatment, people will be able to discuss their gambling issues with a therapist and develop coping strategies for addressing them in their daily lives.
Changing the way you think about gambling is an important step in overcoming the habit. You may find it helpful to start a journal, where you can write about your experiences and feelings. This might help you recognise patterns in your gambling habits, such as chasing your losses.
It is also important to balance gambling with other activities in your life, such as hobbies and socialising with friends. If you are unsure how to break this pattern, consider speaking with a friend who has experienced gambling addiction or seeking professional counselling.
Another way to change the way you think about gambling is to limit your spending. If you are able to do this, it will be much easier to stop gambling. Try to only gamble with disposable income and never spend money that you need to pay bills or rent. In addition, it is a good idea to only gamble on days when you do not have any other obligations.