How to Overcome a Gambling Addiction


Gambling is an activity where individuals risk something of value (money or possessions) in an attempt to win more than they have lost. It is an addictive activity that can lead to serious financial and personal problems if not dealt with appropriately. In the United States, gambling is regulated by state governments, with each state setting its own minimum age for gambling and other restrictions. Many forms of gambling are also illegal in some states.

Some people gamble for a living, earning their income from winning or losing bets. Other people gamble as a form of entertainment, much like going to the cinema or seeing a live sporting event. People who have a gambling problem can have great difficulty controlling their behaviour and may try to cope with it by hiding their gambling, lying about it or trying to find ways around it. Some people who are struggling with gambling addiction also have a history of other psychological disorders such as bipolar disorder, depression or kleptomania.

There is a long history of legal prohibition of gambling, often on moral or religious grounds, and sometimes to preserve public order where gambling has been associated with violent disputes. There is a growing trend, however, toward acceptance of gambling as a normal and harmless form of recreation, as well as a move away from viewing it as a source of addiction and towards seeing it as a behavioural problem in the same way that kleptomania or pyromania are seen as disorders.

The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is realising that you have a problem. This can be a difficult step, especially if you have already lost significant sums of money or had your relationships damaged by the problem. Once you have made this decision, there are many options for help and recovery.

One of the most effective ways to control your gambling is to set money and time limits for yourself. This will prevent you from gambling with money that you need to pay bills or rent, and it will give you a clear limit to stop at when you have reached it. It is also helpful to fill in the gaps in your schedule that you had previously filled with gambling with new activities, such as socialising with friends, exercising, learning a skill or volunteering for a cause.

Another option is to join a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous which is a 12-step program based on the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of this is finding a sponsor, someone who has a history of gambling addiction and experience remaining free from it. The Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ has more information on this. You can also access self-help guides for stopping gambling on the NHS website. These are divided into five sections, which build on each other and can be worked through in stages. These include family therapy, marriage, career and credit counseling to address the specific issues that have been created by your gambling habits and lay the foundation for repairing your relationships.