For many people, buying lottery tickets, betting on horses, playing cards for money or feeding slot machines is nothing more than a fun pastime.
But for some people, gambling games can become an uncontrollable and necessary part of life. In these cases, the need to gamble can turn into an addiction known clinically as pathological gambling. The key to overcoming gambling addiction is to identify the problem and find help.
Recognize the symptoms
You might have a gambling problem if you have the following symptoms:
- You gamble because you’re bored or alone.
- You constantly think about gambling, and you want to play to win money.
- You want to gamble more, and you dedicate more time to gambling than anything else in your life.
- You spend most of your money, and you have trouble paying your bills.
- You feel guilty after gambling, but you don’t stop doing it.
- You lie to your friends about your habit because you feel embarrassed by it.
- Gambling interferes with your work, and it causes problems with family and friends.
Look for help
If not treated, a gambling addiction can lead to anxiety, stress and depression.
If you think you have a problem, reach out to a trusted family member or friend, and seek help from a therapist. You can also attend recovery programs that offer group sessions or individual treatment.
There are nonprofit organizations that specialize in helping people with their gambling problem. Gamblers Anonymous and the National Council on Problem Gambling are good resources and have hotlines all over the United States. If you need immediate help, you can call the national hotline 24 hours a day at 1-800-522-4700.