Gambling As an Addiction

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money or other possessions) on an event with an uncertain outcome. It can take many forms, including betting on sports events, playing games of chance such as slots or lottery tickets and even online gambling. While some people enjoy gambling as a form of entertainment, for others it is an addiction that can have serious financial and personal consequences.

Problem gamblers come from all walks of life. They can be young or old, rich or poor, of any race or religion. They can live in small towns or big cities. They can be college graduates or have no formal education at all. They can be male or female, and they can be married or single. They can work in office jobs or have no job at all. They can be doctors, lawyers or truck drivers. Problem gamblers can be found in every country and in every type of household.

While it is obvious that people with gambling disorders are compelled to bet, gamblers often deny that they have a problem. This denial can lead to family or marital problems, work performance issues and even bankruptcy. In some cases, individuals with untreated gambling disorder have even attempted suicide. For these reasons, it is important to seek help if you have an addictive gambling habit.

In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. However, in the 1980s, when updating its diagnostic manual, the American Psychiatric Association moved pathological gambling to the same chapter on addictive behaviors as kleptomania and pyromania. This decision reflects a growing understanding of the biology behind addiction.

Research has shown that a person’s brain is chemically altered when they begin to gamble. The rewards system in the brain changes when a person begins to gamble, triggering feelings of euphoria. These changes can be caused by the excitement of the game, the possibility of winning money or other prizes, or by chasing losses. Eventually, the desire to gamble can outweigh all other activities in a person’s life.

Fortunately, there are ways to combat the urge to gamble. One way is to strengthen your support network. This can include family and friends, as well as a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. Another way is to find new hobbies and interests. Joining a club, enrolling in a class or volunteering for a charity are all good ways to occupy your time and replace the pleasure that gambling used to provide.

Another helpful way to combat the urge to gamble is to not chase your losses. It is common for gamblers to think that they are due for a big win and can recoup their losses if they play just one more time. This is called the “gambler’s fallacy,” and it is very dangerous for people with gambling disorders to believe. Trying to recover from gambling disorders requires strong willpower and patience.