Gambling involves putting something of value on the outcome of a chance event. It can be done with anything from a lottery ticket to a horse race. Whether it’s for fun or as a way to win money, gambling triggers the brain’s reward system, creating dopamine in response to winning and losing. As a result, the more you gamble, the more dopamine is produced and the more addictive it becomes. While gambling for entertainment is fine, it’s a problem when it’s used as a way to profit or escape from your life.
Gamblers may start to feel a rush of pleasure when they lose, but that’s usually short lived. As soon as the losses outweigh the wins, a person begins to experience a negative emotional state and it’s time to stop. If you have a gambling problem, there are many resources available to help you overcome your addiction. These services can provide support, assistance and counselling for people who are experiencing harm from gambling.
Symptoms of a gambling disorder include:
Trying to cover up or hide their involvement in gambling; downplaying or denying the severity of their gambling behaviour; lying to family members, friends and/or therapists about their gambling activities; hiding evidence of their gambling activities; lying or obfuscating when confronted by others about their involvement with gambling; and relying on others to pay for gambling expenses or replace money lost from gambling. Personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions also contribute to the development of a gambling disorder.
A common misconception is that people only gamble for the money. In reality, people gamble for a variety of reasons, including mood change and the dream of a large jackpot win. People also gamble to socialize and for the excitement of competition.
Studies have shown that certain personality traits, such as impulsivity and risk-taking, contribute to the development of gambling disorders. Some researchers have also found that genetic factors and differences in brain reward systems may influence how people process rewards, control impulses and weigh risks.
While the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, several types of psychotherapy can be helpful. These treatments, which take place with a mental health professional, are designed to teach a person to identify and change unhealthy thoughts and emotions. These therapies can be combined with other behavioural changes, such as stress management techniques and finding healthy ways to spend time. A person with a gambling disorder should also consider joining a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. These groups can provide valuable guidance and support from other people who have beaten their gambling addictions. They can also help a person find new hobbies and interests to replace their previous fascination with gambling. Ultimately, the key to beating gambling disorder is having a strong support network and seeking treatment before it’s too late.