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How to Avoid Gambling Addiction

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The word ‘gambling’ has several definitions, ranging from playing cards with friends in your living room to placing bets on sports events and other random chance-taking activities. The common view is that gambling involves a high-risk, low-reward entertainment choice, and it’s easy to see how someone could get hooked. The reality, however, is that it’s not as simple as that, and many people have trouble recognizing when they are gambling too much.

For some, gambling is a way to socialize with friends, family and co-workers; the media reinforces this notion by portraying gamblers as fun, sexy, glamorous and fashionable. It can also be used to escape from boredom, stress, financial worries or depression.

Other reasons people gamble include a desire for thrills and a sense of adventure, and the chance to win money. While these factors alone can’t lead to a gambling addiction, they are often compounded by underlying mood disorders such as depression or anxiety. This is why it’s important to seek treatment for these conditions before attempting to overcome a gambling problem.

In addition to treating the underlying mood disorder, cognitive-behavior therapy can teach people to stop engaging in unwanted behaviors and beliefs. Gambling addicts, for example, may be taught to confront irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a series of losses or a near miss—say two out of three cherries on a slot machine—will eventually turn into a big win. In some cases, this is a major step towards breaking free of the vicious cycle of loss and gain.

Another important factor to consider is a person’s environment and culture. In some communities, it’s considered normal to gamble; this can make it harder for individuals to recognize a gambling problem and seek help. Also, some individuals are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behavior and impulsivity, making them more prone to gambling addiction.

The best way to avoid becoming a gambling addict is to practice good money management. For example, never use credit cards to gamble and limit the amount of money you carry with you when going to casinos. You can also strengthen your support network by joining a book club, taking an art class or volunteering for a charity. Finally, you can join a gambling recovery program like Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a twelve-step model similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you’re having trouble controlling your spending habits, it might be time to talk to a credit counselor at a non-profit debt relief agency, such as StepChange. Debt counselors can help you set budgets and create a plan to manage your finances, including creating a repayment schedule, reducing your interest rate or eliminating late fees. To find a reputable debt relief agency, contact the National Debt Relief Helpline at 1-800-820-8211. They can connect you with qualified professionals who offer free, confidential consultations. They can also recommend an individualized debt repayment plan that works for your situation. These companies specialize in helping consumers with all types of debt, including student loans, home mortgages and credit card debt.