Gambling is a risky activity that involves betting something of value on the outcome of a game of chance or skill. It can take many forms, including betting on sports games, scratch cards, casinos, horse races and online. For some people, gambling is a way to relieve boredom or stress and for others it becomes an addiction with serious consequences. People with a gambling disorder can become unable to control their spending, lose their jobs and end up in financial disaster. Despite the stigma attached to gambling disorder, it can be treated effectively.
Gambling disorders are common, and can affect anyone from any social class or cultural background. They can range from mild to severe and affect all ages. They may occur in conjunction with other psychiatric problems, such as depression or bipolar disorder, and can be triggered by stressful life events such as death of a loved one, divorce or unemployment. They can also be caused by drug or alcohol use, or genetic predisposition.
The problem with gambling is that it triggers massive surges of dopamine in the brain, but this pleasure only lasts for a short period of time. Over time, this causes the person to need more and more to feel the same effect. The brain changes to become desensitized, and it can become increasingly difficult to stop gambling.
People who have a gambling disorder are often impulsive and cannot weigh the risks against the potential benefits. They may have a genetic predisposition towards thrill-seeking behaviours and an underactive reward system in the brain, which can lead to poor decision-making. They also have a tendency to gamble for social reasons, such as to make friends or to have fun.
A major step in overcoming gambling disorders is admitting that there is a problem. This can be a tough step, especially if you have lost large amounts of money or have strained or broken relationships because of gambling. The good news is that there are a variety of treatment options available, from self-help to inpatient and residential rehabilitation.
The first step is to reclaim your power by taking control of your finances and establishing new routines. If you find yourself tempted to gamble, postpone the urge and think about the negative consequences of your actions. Make a commitment to spend only a certain amount of money on gambling and stick to that limit. You can also strengthen your support network and join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. Finally, make sure you don’t keep credit cards in your wallet, have someone else manage your money and close any online betting accounts. In addition, try to get into a hobby or find a new way to relieve boredom that doesn’t involve gambling. For example, you could try exercise, visiting friends who don’t gamble or reading a book. You can also seek out therapy to learn how to cope with the emotions you’re feeling.