Gambling involves placing something of value on a random event for the chance to win something else. While it can be fun, it can also have serious negative effects when it becomes a problem. Fortunately, there are many ways to help someone overcome problems with gambling. Counseling, support groups, and family therapy can all be helpful in the recovery process. Medications can also be useful in treating co-occurring disorders and improving mood. But it is ultimately the person’s choice to take up or drop the habit of gambling.
While many people have gambled in the past, pathological gambling is becoming increasingly common, especially with the legalization of more gambling activities and the development of online gambling. In the past, the psychiatric community viewed it as an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania or trichotillomania (hair-pulling), but in the 1980s, the APA officially classified it as a compulsive gambling disorder and moved it to the addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
There are many factors that make someone susceptible to developing an addictive personality, including genetic traits and other family history, coexisting mental health conditions, and the environment in which they were raised. But the biggest risk factor is spending more money on gambling than you can afford to lose. In addition to financial loss, gambling can lead to family and relationship problems. It’s important to recognize the signs of a gambling problem and seek treatment immediately.
One of the most difficult steps in recovering from a gambling problem is admitting that you have one. Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed about their problem, especially if it has strained or broken relationships with friends and family members. But it’s important to know that many others have successfully fought back against gambling and rebuilt their lives.
When you gamble, your brain releases a neurotransmitter called dopamine. This chemical makes you feel happy when you win and sad when you lose, creating a vicious cycle of gambling. But this reward is not as strong as the reward you get from other healthy behaviors, such as eating a nutritious meal, spending time with loved ones, and exercising.
It’s also important to remember that gambling is not just about the amount of money you win or lose, but how often and for how long you gamble. Practicing self-control and setting limits can help you stop gambling when it becomes problematic. Limits may include a weekly entertainment budget or a number of hours per week you spend gambling. Using these tools can help you break the cycle and live life free from gambling.