Gambling is the wagering of something of value (such as money or goods) on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. Examples of gambling include lotteries, horse races and casino games. It is considered an addiction when the behavior interferes with the person’s life in significant ways and is difficult to control. In addition to financial problems, it can cause emotional and social distress.
Some people are more susceptible to developing an addiction to gambling than others. It is believed that a combination of factors can trigger gambling disorders, including genetic predisposition, psychological and neurological traits, and environmental influences. Several types of treatment are available for individuals with gambling disorders, including cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy. Some individuals may benefit from specialized programs such as inpatient or residential care.
The word gambling is used to describe a range of activities, from those that do not meet the criteria for pathological gambling (PG) to those that do so. PG is characterized by maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors that are resistant to change and continue to increase over time. Typically, a PG diagnosis is made in adolescence or young adulthood. In general, males develop a PG diagnosis at a faster rate than females. In addition, men tend to gamble more frequently and spend more money on gambling than women do.
While it is unclear what causes some individuals to become addicted to gambling, researchers agree that the behavior involves a significant degree of impulsivity and disruptions in impulse control. Specifically, individuals with a gambling problem exhibit deficits in behavioral disinhibition and in the cortical regions associated with sensation-and novelty-seeking.
Moreover, research suggests that there is a link between a gambling disorder and other psychopathologies. Some studies have found that people with a gambling disorder are more likely to experience depression, bipolar disorders and schizophrenia, as well as substance abuse and suicidal thoughts.
One reason why it is so hard for many people to quit gambling is because their brains are wired to respond to the excitement of winning. When you win, your brain releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that gives you the motivation to keep playing.
However, these positive feelings do not last forever, and when you lose, your brain begins to associate the losses with the dopamine-producing experience, making it even harder to quit. In addition, the irrational belief that past outcomes will impact future events (called the gambler’s fallacy) can also lead to gambling addiction.
The first step to treating a gambling disorder is acknowledging that you have a problem. This can be a huge step, especially if your gambling has led to financial ruin and has strained or broken relationships. Nevertheless, many people have successfully overcome their addictions and rebuilt their lives. Remember that recovery is a journey and it takes tremendous strength and courage to admit when you need help. Get matched with a licensed, professional, and vetted therapist online in as little as 48 hours.