Whether you’re in a twinkly casino, at the race track or online, gambling is a behavior where you risk something of value for the chance to win a prize. It can include any game of skill or chance, but the most common forms of gambling are betting on sports events, buying lotto tickets, playing the pokies and placing bets on horse races. Gambling can be a fun and exciting way to spend time, but it’s important to understand how it works so you don’t end up putting yourself in financial jeopardy.

It’s no secret that gambling is a dangerous habit. Many people who gamble are at risk for developing a gambling problem, and if left unchecked, it can cause serious financial, family and health problems. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help yourself or someone you know with a gambling addiction.

The first step is to acknowledge that there is a problem. It’s not easy to do, especially if your gambling has strained or broken relationships and caused you to lose money that you can’t afford to lose. But it’s an essential step to overcoming the problem.

Once you’ve acknowledged the existence of a gambling problem, seek counseling from a reputable provider. Behavioral therapy is a proven treatment for addiction and can help you learn to recognize and resist unhealthy behaviors, including compulsive gambling. Therapists will work with you to confront irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a string of losses is a sign of an imminent winning streak or that a lucky strike on a slot machine is a precursor to a big jackpot.

Another good idea is to get support from friends and family. A support network can be invaluable during recovery from any addiction, and it’s no different for gambling addicts. If you haven’t already, consider joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, a program that follows the model of Alcoholics Anonymous and offers a 12-step recovery plan for gamblers.

You can also find help with underlying mood disorders that often co-occur with gambling problems, such as depression, stress or anxiety. Getting to the bottom of these issues will give you a stronger foundation to prevent gambling problems from reoccurring and improve your quality of life once you’ve stopped gambling. Family therapy is another option, as it can address specific issues that have been created or made worse by compulsive gambling. For example, it can help you rebuild your relationship with your spouse or children if they have been negatively impacted by your gambling habits. And credit counseling can help you develop a budget and debt management strategies to stop spending beyond your means. This will protect your finances and restore your personal integrity.