Gambling is an activity in which people risk something of value — usually money or property — on an event that has an uncertain outcome. It can also involve wagering non-monetary items, such as marbles or collectable game pieces (like in games like Pogs or Magic the Gathering). The goal is to win more than you lose. When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that makes you feel excited. This feeling may be stronger when you win than when you lose, and it can cause you to keep gambling even after it becomes no longer fun or profitable.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a complex mental health condition that affects your ability to control your spending, your emotions and your behavior. PG is often associated with other mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. It can start in adolescence or early adulthood, and it tends to run in families. It can lead to serious financial, emotional and legal problems. In addition, PG can make it harder to concentrate and focus on work and other activities.
People may start to gamble for a variety of reasons, from simple entertainment to coping with boredom or stress. They may also be looking for a rush of excitement or euphoria, or they might have hopes of winning a big prize. Sometimes, the excitement or euphoria from gambling is so intense that people don’t realize that they are actually getting hurt by their actions. Some people may also be influenced by their culture, where gambling is common and accepted.
Many people with a problem with gambling don’t seek treatment. If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling, try to encourage them to seek help. Suggest calling a helpline, talking to a healthcare provider or mental health professional, or attending a support group for problem gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous.
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorder, several types of psychotherapy can be helpful. These include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. These therapies can teach you how to manage your emotions in healthier ways, and they can help you learn how to cope with your feelings without turning to gambling. They can also teach you better ways to handle stress and relieve boredom, such as exercising, socializing with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. These skills can also be useful in helping you avoid relapse. You can find more information about these types of treatments by clicking on the links below. The best way to address gambling disorder is to get help as soon as you notice it. The earlier you get help, the more likely your loved one is to recover from this complicated, chronic illness.