Gambling is the wagering of something of value, such as money or property, upon an uncertain event whose outcome is determined by chance. The act of gambling includes activities such as betting on a horse race or football match, playing a slot machine or bingo game, and buying a scratchcard. The goal of gambling is to win a prize, but it can also be fun and social. Gambling is a common activity in most cultures worldwide.
People are biologically wired to seek rewards. When people gamble, the brain releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes us feel excited. This is why some people find it hard to stop gambling. They are chasing that dopamine high even after they lose money. This can lead to a vicious cycle: the more they gamble, the more they lose, and the more they want to play.
Problem gambling can have severe consequences for a person and their family. People with gambling disorders may not realize they have a problem and continue to gamble, even when the behavior causes negative impacts on their life.
In addition, the person may experience mood disturbances, including feelings of anxiety and depression. They may hide their behavior from family members and lie about the extent of their involvement with gambling. They may also engage in illegal acts, such as forgery, fraud, theft or embezzlement, to finance their gambling habits. They may risk their relationships, employment and educational opportunities to fund their gambling. Gambling can also have long-term financial, emotional and physical problems for families and communities.
There are many things you can do to help prevent or treat gambling disorder. The most important step is to recognize the signs and symptoms of problem gambling. These include:
A need to increase the amount of money or time spent gambling. Attempts to control or cut back on gambling that fail. Feeling restless or irritable when trying to reduce gambling or stopping altogether. Frequently thinking about gambling, such as reliving past gambling experiences or planning future bets. Putting gambling before other responsibilities and commitments. Using credit cards or other debt to fund gambling. Relying on others to provide funds for gambling. Continuing to gamble even when it causes problems in relationships, work or school.
Although there are no medications to treat gambling disorder, psychotherapy can be helpful. Psychotherapy is a general term for several types of treatment techniques that aim to change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It usually takes place with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. It can be beneficial for people who have other mental health conditions, such as anxiety or depression, as well as those with a history of alcohol or drug use. It is also important to handle stress in healthy ways and to find other enjoyable activities. You can also set money and time limits for gambling, avoid online gambling and keep a limited amount of cash on you at all times.