Gambling is a common pastime that can be dangerous if done too often. In fact, it is considered a form of addiction. It can cause problems such as financial ruin, strained relationships, and a lack of self-esteem. It is important to be aware of the signs of gambling addiction in order to seek help when needed. In addition, it is important to understand the difference between gambling and entertainment. Gambling is considered entertainment when it is a harmless way to enjoy an activity and gain enjoyment. However, it becomes a problem when it is used to escape or profit from an activity.

While the exact definition of gambling varies from state to state, it generally involves risking something of value (money or other assets) in an attempt to predict the outcome of a game based on chance. In the United States, gambling is regulated by both Federal and State laws. The Federal laws prohibit some forms of gambling while others are legal in all states.

When someone is addicted to gambling, he or she may experience:

Feels preoccupied by thinking about gambling; tries to stop gambling but cannot; lies to family members, therapists, and employers in order to conceal the extent of his or her involvement in gambling; feels guilty about gambling; is unable to control spending; experiences a loss of interest in hobbies, friends, and other activities; tries to win back losses by doubling or increasing bets (chasing) (American Psychiatric Association 2000).

There are several ways to overcome an addiction to gambling. One way is to strengthen your support network. This can be done by reaching out to friends and family, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause. It is also helpful to find a peer support group such as Gam-lers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and can provide invaluable guidance.

If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, don’t hesitate to seek professional help. A therapist can address specific issues created by the addiction, such as marital conflict, family discord, and problems with money. In addition, family therapy can also provide the tools necessary to communicate with your loved one about his or her problem gambling.

It is also important to set boundaries in managing money. Never gamble with money that you need to pay bills or rent, and try to limit the time spent gambling. You can also try using betting systems, which are designed to increase your odds of winning by changing the amount you bet each time you lose. However, the most effective way to prevent a relapse is to avoid gambling altogether. Instead, spend your disposable income on other entertainment.