Dealing With a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is the placing of something of value (money or chips) on an event whose outcome is largely dependent on chance. It may be played in private, for fun or with a prize in mind, or as part of a social activity such as a game of poker or blackjack. Gambling is a common recreational activity in many countries, and it can contribute to local economies in some areas.

The psychology of gambling has undergone significant changes in recent years. Previously, people who suffered adverse effects from gambling were viewed as having mental problems; today, understanding of pathological gambling is more in line with the understanding of alcoholism and other addictions. This shift has resulted in a reclassification of the condition within the diagnostic manual published by the American Psychiatric Association (known as DSM).

Some people use gambling as a form of escapism. The lights and noise of a casino can offer a temporary escape from the everyday worries and stresses of life, and the idea that luck could turn around in the next spin or roll of the dice can provide an adrenaline rush. However, the highs of gambling can be short-lived and often lead to a downward spiral.

Problematic gambling changes the reward pathway in the brain, causing a person to lose control over their behaviour and become addicted to the feeling of dopamine that is produced when making a winning bet or scratchcard. This is a similar response to what happens when practicing a skill such as shooting a basketball into a net – each success reinforces the action so that you can try again.

In contrast, gambling can trigger a variety of unpleasant emotions such as stress, regret and shame, which can lead to depression and other mental health issues. It can also contribute to financial instability, affecting debt levels and credit score.

It’s important to seek help for a gambling addiction if you think that you or someone you know is struggling with it. Seeking treatment can help you regain control over your finances and rebuild healthy relationships. There are several different types of treatment available, including peer support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous and residential or inpatient rehab programs.

The first step in dealing with a gambling addiction is admitting that you have one, which can be very difficult for some people, especially if they’ve lost a lot of money or strained family relationships over the issue. It’s also a good idea to strengthen your support network and look for healthier ways to relieve boredom or unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up new hobbies or using relaxation techniques. You should also consider seeking treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to the addictive behaviour. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that can match you with a licensed, accredited therapist who can help you overcome a range of issues, including gambling addiction. Get started today by taking our free assessment and getting matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours!