Gambling involves placing something of value (typically money) at risk on an event that has an element of chance and offers the potential to win a greater prize. It can be done through a variety of means, including casino games, sports events, horse races, dog shows, lotteries, instant scratch-off tickets and video machines. Some people may also use the internet to gamble. Problem gambling can have significant impacts on a person’s life, with the impact often extending to their family and community.
The human brain is biologically wired to seek rewards. When people engage in healthy behaviors, like spending time with loved ones or eating a nutritious meal, the brain releases chemicals that make them feel good. Those same chemical signals are activated when people gamble. People with a gambling disorder are addicted to the rush of dopamine that comes from making bets and taking risks. This condition is recognized as a mental health disorder, and it can be treated with psychotherapy or other addiction treatments.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) included pathological gambling as an addictive disorder, along with other substance-related disorders. While some people are genetically predisposed to problem gambling, it’s also possible to develop a gambling habit due to a stressful situation or lifestyle factors. It is common for people with a gambling disorder to have other co-occurring mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder or anxiety.
Despite the many negatives, gambling does offer some benefits to society. It contributes to the economy by providing jobs and generating tax revenue. It can also be an educational tool, as it teaches individuals how to analyze odds and probability and improve critical thinking skills. It can also provide a source of income for those who are struggling with financial difficulties.
It’s important to remember that your loved one is not to blame for their gambling problems. They likely do not choose to gamble or become addicted, and they likely do not intend for their gambling to affect them negatively. They may be doing it for coping reasons – to forget their problems or to feel more confident and self-sufficient. It’s also likely that they don’t realise how addictive gambling really is.
If you suspect your loved one has a gambling problem, there are many organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling. It’s important to get help before the problem escalates, as it can have serious consequences for their health and well-being. It can also damage their relationships with friends and family members.
One of the most difficult aspects of addressing a gambling problem is recognising that you have a problem. You may have been avoiding or hiding your gambling behaviour from others, or lying about how much you’re spending on it. This can be especially hard if you’ve lost a lot of money or suffered strained or broken relationships as a result of your gambling. Getting help is the first step, and a therapist can be an excellent resource for you.