Gambling is the risking of something of value, namely money, on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. The gambler hopes to win and gain something of value in return. While most people think of casino gambling or betting on sports, lotteries, and scratch-off games are all forms of gambling as well. The term can also be used to refer to video poker or other electronic gaming machines, and even the act of placing a bet on horse races or office pools.
Compulsive gambling can have many causes. Some people are predisposed to the disorder by genetics, others may begin gambling at a young age or be exposed to it through family members and friends who have a problem. A history of psychiatric disorders can increase the risk as well. Compulsive gamblers often experience symptoms such as anxiety and depression.
Regardless of the type of gambling or the reasons for engaging in it, most people do not intend to become addicted. Compulsive gambling is a treatable condition, and it can be treated with psychosocial therapies and medication. Those who do not receive treatment for their addiction will continue to engage in problematic behavior and suffer consequences, including financial distress, emotional distress, social isolation, and relationship difficulties.
Gambling can be a fun and entertaining activity when it is done for the right reasons. Most people gamble for social or entertainment purposes, such as attending a casino with friends or playing video games on their smartphones. They may also do it for financial reasons, such as trying to improve their chances of winning a jackpot or other large prize.
When someone makes a bet, their brain is activated by the release of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that creates feelings of excitement and reward. This response is most prominent when they win, but the same effect occurs when you lose. As a result, some people find it difficult to recognize when their gambling is no longer fun or acceptable.
Although a small percentage of people are able to control their gambling habits, many cannot. Those with a gambling problem may:
Lie to family, friends, or therapists about their involvement with gambling.
Cheat to fund their gambling addiction.
Spend more money on gambling than they can afford to lose.
Think they are due to win big and recoup their losses.
The most important thing to remember is that gambling cannot occur without a decision. To break the cycle, you must stop gambling as soon as you feel the urge. If you have an urge, call a friend or seek professional help. You can also take steps to reduce your risk by eliminating credit cards, putting someone else in charge of your finances, closing online betting accounts, and keeping only a small amount of cash on you at all times.
It is important to note that compulsive gambling can affect both men and women, and all ages, but it tends to be more prevalent in younger people. If you have a child or teen who is showing signs of problem gambling, reach out for help for him or her. There are many support groups available for families dealing with this issue.