What is Gambling Disorder?

Gambling is a fun and exciting activity that can also be extremely risky. While it’s common to think of casinos and racetracks when thinking of gambling, it actually occurs in many places including gas stations, church halls, sports events and even online. Gambling is defined as the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an event with a random outcome where instances of strategy are discounted. It requires three elements to be present: consideration, risk and a prize.

People gamble for many reasons, some of which include: social, coping and entertainment. Some of these reasons may sound innocuous, such as socializing with friends or enjoying the anticipation of winning a jackpot. However, these can often be harmful and cause an individual to engage in unhealthy behaviors.

For some, gambling can become addictive and lead to problems such as debt and family problems. This is because of the changes that occur in the brain of a person who develops gambling disorder, which can be similar to those experienced by people addicted to drugs or alcohol. People with this condition may start to feel a need to gamble in order to get that same feeling of pleasure or excitement, or they may start to feel irritable and anxious when they aren’t gambling.

It’s important to remember that your loved one did not choose to become addicted to gambling, and they likely don’t realise how much of a problem it has become for them. Several factors can contribute to someone becoming addicted to gambling, such as an early big win, boredom susceptibility, impulsivity, the use of escape coping and stressful life experiences.

When people gamble, they are sending massive surges of dopamine through their brains, which is the same chemical released when you eat a meal or watch a movie. But these surges are not a good substitute for the things that truly give your life meaning and purpose, such as eating or working. If left unchecked, this can create a vicious cycle where your gambling behaviours increase in frequency and intensity until they become dangerous and consuming.

There are a number of ways to address the issue of gambling disorder, and it’s best to seek help as soon as possible. Treatment options can include psychotherapy and medication. Psychotherapy is a series of treatments that can help you identify and change unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors, and it’s often conducted in the form of group therapy or individual therapy sessions with a mental health professional.

There are also medications available, and they work by changing how your brain reacts to certain chemicals, which can help you control your impulses and stop gambling. However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any of these medications specifically for gambling disorder, so it’s important to find the right type of treatment for your situation. You can also learn to cope with unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up new hobbies and practicing relaxation techniques.