How to Break Your Gambling Habit


Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event whose outcome is determined mostly by chance. It is often conducted with money but may also be undertaken using marbles, trading cards (e.g., Magic: The Gathering), or other items of value that are not actual cash, such as points earned in a collectible game. The most common form of gambling is betting on sporting events, such as football games or horse races, but it can also involve betting with virtual money in online casinos or playing a card or dice game for real money with friends.

Gambling is an activity that can be enjoyable and harmless for most people. However, for some individuals it can become problematic, causing serious financial loss, straining relationships, and impairing performance at work or school. The activity can also lead to addiction, which is a serious mental health condition.

Research suggests that problem gamblers have a different neural circuitry than those who do not. The disorder changes the way your brain responds to rewards, making it difficult for you to control your behavior. Moreover, it leads to distorted thinking that convinces you that you will win the next time.

A gambling addiction is often a symptom of underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can trigger or worsen the gambling behavior and are difficult to treat without addressing the underlying issues.

The first step in breaking your gambling habit is acknowledging that you have a problem. You can do this by taking an online self-assessment or talking to a therapist. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help you overcome problems like depression, anxiety, and compulsive gambling. Start by taking our free assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.

Once you have acknowledged that you have a problem, it is important to develop a plan for change. The biggest step is to recognize that your gambling behavior is harmful and replace it with healthier behaviors. Try to spend more time with family and friends who do not gamble, or find new hobbies that do not involve gambling. It is also helpful to strengthen your support network by reaching out to new people in your life, such as joining a book club or sports team, enrolling in an educational class, or volunteering for a local cause.

Another way to cut down on problem gambling is to set a daily amount of money that you can devote to the activity. This will make it easier to stop once that amount is spent, and you will be able to see when you have finished gambling for the day. It is also important not to chase your losses, as this will only encourage you to keep spending more and more money in the hope that you will eventually break even.