What is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling occurs whenever anyone stakes something of value, such as money or merchandise, on the chance of winning a prize. It may take place in casinos, racetracks, church halls, sporting events and on the Internet. Some people use a card game, a board game or a dice game to gamble. Others bet on sports, TV shows or the outcome of a political campaign.
Almost everyone has gambled at some point in their lives. But for some, gambling becomes a problem that can lead to serious financial problems and even bankruptcy. It’s important to know the signs of a gambling addiction and to get help as soon as possible.
Some people may start gambling as a way to relieve stress or take their mind off daily concerns, while others are attracted to the high levels of excitement and euphoria associated with certain games. These sensations can be triggered by the brain’s reward system, and may provide a temporary mood lift. In addition, the dream of a big jackpot win can also drive some players to gamble.
The risks of gambling include the potential to lose large sums of money and the possibility of becoming addicted to the game. Some people are at risk for developing a gambling problem because of family history, psychological trauma, social inequality or other factors. Symptoms of gambling disorder can begin as early as adolescence or later in adulthood, and women are more likely to develop the problem than men.
While some people can stop gambling on their own, many need treatment to do so. Several types of therapy are used to treat gambling disorders, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychodynamic therapies. Other treatments involve group therapy and family therapy, as well as marriage, career and credit counseling.
Research suggests that a combination of approaches is most effective in treating gambling disorder. For example, CBT teaches individuals to resist their impulses and practice healthy coping strategies. It also helps them confront irrational beliefs, such as the notion that a string of losses or near misses, such as two out of three cherries on a slot machine, signal an imminent win. In addition, a number of different medications are available to treat gambling disorder. These medications are designed to affect neurotransmitters in the brain that regulate motivation and emotion, and they can be combined with CBT to increase effectiveness.
Many people find that support groups are useful in helping them deal with their gambling addiction. Among these are Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. The organization offers free meetings in person and over the Internet, as well as a telephone hotline and online chat rooms for support. It also provides information about available treatment options and a directory of gambling counselors. A good starting point for people seeking treatment is to speak with their physician or therapist. They can refer them to a specialist in the area of gambling disorder.