Gambling As an Addiction


While many people have placed a bet or two, most do not have gambling problems. For those who do, it can be a serious and persistent problem that disrupts their daily lives. In the past, the psychiatric community generally considered pathological gambling to be more of a compulsion than an addiction, but in a move widely viewed as a significant change, the American Psychiatric Association recently moved it into the category of impulse control disorders alongside such conditions as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).

Gambling is a behavior that involves risking something of value on an uncertain event with the hope of winning something else of value. It can take many forms, including lotteries, scratch-off tickets, casino games and sports events. It is common for individuals with this condition to hide their gambling from loved ones, lie about how much money they are spending or even commit illegal acts in an attempt to fund their habit.

Like other addictions, gambling is hard to overcome without help. It is important to seek treatment if you have trouble controlling your urges, as it can affect your relationships, job and health. Treatment options may include medication, psychotherapy and family therapy. Psychotherapy can help you learn to identify and change unhealthy behaviors. It can also address underlying issues such as depression or anxiety that contribute to your gambling disorder. There are several different types of psychotherapy, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. Family therapy can help you regain closeness with your loved ones and establish healthy communication styles.

Research on gambling is largely limited to studies of specific events, but longitudinal designs can yield valuable insights into the etiology of this disorder. In particular, these studies can highlight factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling behavior, as well as provide evidence of causality.

Despite the potential for big wins, the reality is that most people lose when they gamble. This is because when you place a bet, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine that makes you feel pleasure. Unfortunately, these feelings can trigger the urge to gamble again, as long as there is still a chance of winning.

The best way to overcome the temptation to gamble is to develop a plan to keep you from gambling. This includes setting a time limit for how long you will gamble and deciding before you begin how much money you will spend. It is also a good idea to avoid gambling on credit and not use money that you need to pay bills or rent. Finally, try to find other ways to relieve unpleasant emotions, such as loneliness or boredom, instead of gambling. These steps can help you stop gambling before it starts to cause problems in your life.