Gambling is the act of putting something of value on an event where the outcome will only come down to luck. This activity is done through betting on various events like lotteries, football (soccer) games, or horse racing, and is widely popular around the world. Gambling can be a fun and exciting pastime for many people, but for some it becomes an addiction and can have serious consequences on their lives.
It is important to recognize the warning signs of gambling addiction, and to be able to distinguish between normal behavior and problems. It can be difficult to identify the symptoms of a gambling disorder, and some individuals may find it more challenging to admit they have a problem. Luckily, there are treatment options available.
The American Psychiatric Association officially recognized pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder in the 1980s, and it moved this disorder to the addictive disorders chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in the latest edition that was published in May. This change is widely regarded as a landmark decision that has already changed the way psychiatrists help people who are struggling with this disorder.
In addition to being a dangerous activity for some individuals, gambling also has several negative effects on society and the economy. The most well-known of these is the increased risk of financial collapse, which can have devastating consequences for families, communities, and businesses. The compulsion to gamble is often a sign of underlying mental health issues, such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorder. These problems can be addressed through psychotherapy, a form of treatment that involves working with a licensed mental health professional to identify and change unhealthy thoughts, emotions and behaviors.
People who are addicted to gambling may use the behavior as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, unwind or socialize with friends. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to relieve these feelings, including exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, practicing relaxation techniques, or taking up a new hobby. Additionally, it is helpful to develop a support system and seek professional treatment when needed.
While the chance of winning never increases or decreases when you’re gambling, the brain does release dopamine, which causes us to feel excited about our chances. This is why some people have trouble walking away from the table when they’re losing — their brains are telling them to keep playing, in the hopes that a win will balance out all those losses.
Besides the psychological effects of gambling, it has also been found to have negative social impacts on family relationships and workplace performance. Moreover, some individuals have even been left by their spouses due to gambling debts. In some cases, this has led to suicide attempts by those suffering from gambling addiction. This has prompted experts to call for greater attention to the issue and explore the ways that it can be addressed. Our Safeguarding Courses can help you understand the risks of gambling and how to safeguard vulnerable adults.