Gambling is a form of risk-taking in which people wager money or other goods or services on the outcome of events that are unpredictable. It’s a popular pastime that can be enjoyable in moderation, but for some it can have devastating consequences. Those who gamble can experience psychological, social and financial problems. In some cases, gambling can even lead to addiction.
In the past, psychiatric experts have viewed pathological gambling as a type of impulse control disorder along with kleptomania (stealing), pyromania (setting things on fire) and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). But in May, the APA moved it into the Addictions chapter in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition. The change is widely viewed as a landmark.
The decision to gamble triggers a reaction in the brain’s reward center. Whether you win or lose, your body releases a chemical called dopamine, which produces feelings of pleasure. These chemicals are similar to those released by drugs of abuse, which can also trigger an addictive response. People with certain personality traits or coexisting mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, are more likely to develop a gambling addiction. In addition, genetic predispositions may increase the risk of developing an addiction to gambling.
One of the most serious risks of gambling is impulsivity, which means you’re prone to acting on your gut instinct rather than thinking about the consequences. This can cause you to make bad decisions that can lead to loss and debt. You may also find yourself chasing losses, which can lead to self-denial and isolation. Lastly, gambling can become an obsession that interferes with your work and relationships.
Gambling is a common activity for many people, and it can be a fun and social way to pass the time. It also teaches you how to be more observant and mentally task your brain. It can also be a great way to meet new people and get to know them. However, it’s important to be aware of the potential for addiction and seek help when you have a problem.
If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, there are several steps you can take to overcome it. First, seek support from friends and family members who can provide guidance and encouragement. You can also join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous. Other options include strengthening your support network, enrolling in a class or education program, and volunteering for a good cause. In addition, you can try to break your habit by removing all the temptations around you. For example, put your credit cards in another’s name or limit your spending, close your online gambling accounts and keep only a small amount of cash on you. Also, start meeting new people in non-gambling environments. This could be through a book club, sports team, church group, or community service project. You can also seek professional help through counseling and rehab programs. The best treatment centers will offer inpatient and residential options for those who require round-the-clock care.