How to Break a Gambling Addiction


Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event with the hope of winning something else of value, and may be done legally or illegally. There are three main elements of gambling: consideration, risk, and prize. Wagering on sports events is a form of gambling, as is betting on horse races, auto racing, or political elections. Casino games like roulette, blackjack, Mahjong, and poker are also forms of gambling.

Unpredictability and reward uncertainty play a key role in the appeal of gambling. The brain releases the neurotransmitter dopamine when anticipating enjoyable activities, and dopamine levels increase even more during situations with uncertain rewards. This is why it can be so difficult to stop gambling once the habit has started.

There are many ways to help someone who has a gambling addiction. Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling can address the specific problems created by compulsive gambling. They can also teach healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, or learning relaxation techniques.

A major step in breaking a gambling habit is establishing money boundaries. It is important to only gamble with disposable income and not use money that needs to be saved for bills or rent. It is also helpful to set time and money limits in advance (e.g., no more than an hour a day) and stick to them. It is also helpful to remove all credit cards, have someone else be in charge of finances, close online betting accounts, and keep only a small amount of cash on hand.