Gambling is an activity in which a person risks something of value (money, property, or life) in the hope of winning something else of value. The term gambling includes betting on a single event or series of events, as well as speculating about the outcome of a game of chance. While some people may enjoy gambling without becoming addicted, others develop an addiction that causes serious problems in their lives and the lives of those around them.
Problem gambling can have negative impacts on a person’s physical or mental health, work or school performance, relationships, and finances. It can also cause emotional distress and damage a person’s family, friends, and community. Problem gambling is often accompanied by other mood disorders such as depression or anxiety, and it can lead to substance abuse.
Several factors can contribute to the development of gambling disorder, including genetics and environmental factors such as trauma or social inequality. It can begin in adolescence or later in adulthood, and men are more likely to develop the disorder than women. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may interfere with daily functioning. It is estimated that up to 5% of people who gamble develop a gambling disorder, and the risk increases with age.
People with gambling disorder can have a difficult time recognizing and seeking help for their problem. It can be especially hard for people who live in cultures that consider gambling a normal pastime, or who believe they don’t have a problem because their habits are “in moderation.” Some of these individuals may be in the early stages of pathological gambling and may not meet DSM-IV criteria for a diagnosis.
Some people who struggle with gambling find relief by focusing on other activities and spending more time with friends who don’t gamble. They may also try to manage their emotions in healthier ways, such as exercising or practicing relaxation techniques. They can also seek out help for other mood disorders that may be contributing to their problem, such as depression or anxiety.
Gambling can trigger a release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited. However, your brain continues to produce this chemical even when you lose. This can make you want to continue gambling in order to experience that feeling again and again.
A person can get help for a gambling addiction through therapy, medication, self-help groups, and support from family and friends. Some therapies that are effective include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy, and group therapy. Inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs are also available for people who have a severe gambling problem and can’t stop gambling without round-the-clock support. In addition to therapeutic interventions, some medications may be helpful for treating co-occurring disorders like depression or anxiety.