Gambling DisordersDecember 2, 2023
Gambling is a form of betting or staking something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game, contest, or an uncertain event whose result is determined by chance or accident. It does not include bona fide business transactions, such as purchases of future securities or commodities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty, and life, health, and accident insurance (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).
Problem gambling is when the activity negatively impacts other areas of a person’s life, including physical or mental health, school or work performance, finances and personal relationships. People with problem gambling often have difficulty recognizing when they are acting in a harmful way, and may hide their involvement from others. They may also use money or property they own to fund their gambling habit, and may even steal in order to finance it. In some cases, they may be able to control their addiction but find it difficult to stop gambling altogether.
Some people have genetic predispositions to thrill-seeking behaviours or impulsivity, while some studies show that a chemical imbalance in the brain can affect how individuals process reward information and control impulses. Other factors may include social and family background, as well as cultural influences, which can influence how a person views gambling and what constitutes problem behaviour.
People who gamble for money are often motivated by a desire to win big and experience feelings of euphoria, which are linked to the brain’s reward system. However, for some, the addiction to gambling can be driven by other motives, such as mood change, a desire to socialize with friends, or to relieve stress. Some research suggests that those with low self-esteem and/or poor financial management skills may be more vulnerable to gambling disorders. Young people, especially males, are also more likely to develop a gambling disorder.
A therapist can help you recognize the signs and symptoms of gambling disorder, and provide you with tools to overcome the addiction. The first step is admitting that you have a problem, and this can be hard for some people, especially if they have lost significant amounts of money or have strained their relationships as a result. You can seek support from your family and friends, or from groups for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also try to postpone gambling, which can reduce the urge and give you time to reconsider your decision. If you are struggling with a gambling problem, talk to your therapist or call a national helpline. If you cannot afford to pay for therapy, there are free services available.