Gambling Disorders – How to Protect Yourself From the Harmful Effects of Gambling

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, property, or time) on an uncertain event with the intent to win something else of value. In addition to the risk of losing, gambling also carries a high psychological cost and can have a severe negative impact on a person’s life. There are many misconceptions about gambling, including that it is a fun and low-risk form of entertainment, or that it offers a high chance of winning. The reality is that gambling has a lot of downsides and can be very addictive.

The number of people with a gambling problem has risen dramatically since 1974. It is estimated that more than one-third of Americans gamble, and the amount of money wagered on a national basis has grown to extraordinary proportions. This increase has coincided with the development of the Internet, a proliferation of casinos, and the introduction of new forms of gambling such as video lottery terminals and online betting sites.

In some cases, the onset of a gambling disorder is rapid and severe. In others, it develops gradually over a long period of time. This variation in onset is consistent with the theory that gambling disorders are best conceptualized as a continuum of severity.

People with a gambling disorder may secretly engage in gambling activities or lie about the amount of money they have lost, believing that others will not understand their addiction or that they are going to be able to “win back” their losses. They may feel compelled to gamble even when they are sick or tired. They may feel a rush of excitement when they win, but also a sense of relief and elation when they lose.

There are a number of ways that people can protect themselves from the harmful effects of gambling. The most important step is to make a decision not to gamble. This can be as simple as putting away credit cards, having someone else manage the bank accounts, and keeping only a small amount of cash on hand. If you do decide to gamble, only use money that you don’t need for bills or other necessities.

Taking regular breaks from gambling can help to improve focus and prevent over-gambling. You should also avoid chasing your losses. Thinking that you are due for a big win or will be able to recoup your losses is called the gambler’s fallacy, and is not based in fact.

Therapy can teach you skills to overcome your gambling addiction. Cognitive-behavioral therapy focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It can also help you learn to deal with financial, work, and relationship problems caused by your compulsive gambling. In addition, treatment can include medication for any underlying conditions that are contributing to your gambling behavior. A combination of these treatments is often most effective. For example, a therapist may recommend medication to treat depression or anxiety and counseling for addiction.