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How to Overcome an Addiction to Gambling

Gambling involves risking money or other valuables on an uncertain event in the hope of winning something else of value. It can include games of chance like rolling a dice or throwing a coin, or it can involve skill-based activities such as blackjack and horse racing. People gamble for social, recreational or financial reasons, and they often develop addictions to gambling.

Many people use gambling to escape from boredom or stress and it can become a vicious cycle of losing and winning. This pattern leads to a loss of control, as the person believes that they are ‘due’ a win and that their luck will change. This can lead to significant debt, and some gamblers may even steal to fund their habit.

There are several ways that a gambler can be helped to overcome their problem. Therapy and support groups can help to understand the underlying issues and learn new coping strategies. Some of the most effective treatments for gambling addiction involve cognitive-behaviour therapy, which teaches people to resist unhelpful thoughts and behaviours. It can also teach them how to recognise the signs of an unhealthy addiction, such as hiding evidence of gambling activity or lying to friends and family about how much they are spending on the activity.

The most common cause of gambling addiction is the false belief that chances of winning increase after a period of losses. This is known as the ‘gambler’s fallacy’ and can occur when a person sees other gamblers who have won recently, or when they recall a string of good fortune in their own past gambling history. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this theory and each individual spin of the roulette wheel or flip of a coin has exactly the same chance of heads or tails.

Other factors that contribute to gambling addiction include a boredom susceptibility, impulsivity and a poor understanding of random events. Some people are also more sensitive to losses than gains of an equal amount and this can lead them to continually invest time and money to try and make up for previous losses. Finally, some people turn to gambling to cope with stressful life experiences and it can become a dangerous habit that causes them significant financial and emotional harm. There are a number of government-funded services that provide support and assistance for people who have developed an addiction to gambling. The most effective treatment programmes involve a combination of therapies, including cognitive-behavioural therapy, group therapy and one-to-one counselling. A specialised gambling helpline is also available for those who need it. This service offers confidential advice, information and referrals for gambling addiction and related problems. This service is free of charge and is available 24/7. The phone line is staffed by trained professionals who are trained in the recognition of gambling problems and offer expert guidance on the best way to get help. The helpline can be contacted on 0800 555 222. This service is provided by the National Problem Gambling Helpline.