Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, playing the pokies, betting on sports events or trying to win a jackpot on a slot machine, gambling involves risking something of value in the hope of getting more than you put in. It can be a lot of fun but you need to remember that it’s a chance game and you will lose more than you win. If you find yourself gambling more than you can afford to, it might be time to seek help.
Using a reputable service like BetterHelp can connect you with an experienced, licensed, and vetted therapist who can provide support and guidance to help you overcome your gambling addiction. You can get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.
In psychology, the term “gambling” refers to any activity in which people stake something of value on an outcome that is determined by chance. It may involve a game of chance or skill, and it can be online or in brick-and-mortar casinos or clubs.
Gambling is a risky and addictive behavior that can have serious consequences for individuals and their families. A study of the prevalence and characteristics of pathological gambling in the United States found that 4% of the population is likely to meet Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for pathological gambling, including symptoms such as:
The reward system in your brain responds to healthy behaviors, such as spending time with loved ones or eating well. When we engage in these activities, our bodies produce a natural substance called dopamine that makes us feel good. In contrast, gambling triggers a response in the same brain areas as drugs of abuse. This is due to the underlying biological changes in the brain that occur with repeated exposure to gambling and uncertainty.
People with gambling disorders may also experience other psychological and emotional problems. They may feel depressed, anxious or guilty when they lose money. They might hide their behavior from family and friends or lie about how much they are spending on gambling. They might even commit illegal acts to finance their gambling, such as forgery or embezzlement. They might also rely on others to fund their gambling habit or help them pay their bills.
A significant barrier to treatment is often the difficulty in admitting that there is a problem, especially for people in communities where gambling is viewed as a normal pastime. Fortunately, there are many effective treatment options for gambling disorders. They include therapy and group support. Some examples of these are a 12-step recovery program such as Gamblers Anonymous, and cognitive behavioral therapy. Other treatments include medication, distancing from gambling-related activities, and learning healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. People with gambling problems can also try coping skills, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and taking up other hobbies.