Gambling Addiction

Gambling is risking something of value (money or material goods) on an uncertain outcome, such as the roll of a dice, the spin of a roulette wheel, or the result of a horse race. It can be done for fun, for profit, or as a social activity. It is a common pastime in many countries and it is regulated in some places. It can have positive effects on health and happiness, but it can also harm health, lead to debt and even cause homelessness. It can also damage relationships and hurt work or study performance, and can ruin the lives of family and friends.

The most important step in overcoming gambling problems is admitting that there is a problem. This can be difficult, especially if the addiction has cost you money and strained or broken your relationship with your family. It can be helpful to talk about your feelings with a trusted friend or family member, and to join a support group for families such as Gam-Anon.

Until recently, the psychiatric community thought that pathological gambling was not an actual addiction, but a kind of impulse-control disorder, like kleptomania and pyromania. In a recent update to its diagnostic manual, the APA moved compulsive gambling into the chapter on addictions, and it is now considered an actual mental illness. This change may have been prompted by new research that shows that pathological gambling is a physiological disorder that affects the brain.

For example, people who are addicted to gambling have abnormally high levels of dopamine, a chemical messenger that regulates pleasure in the body. A higher level of dopamine can lead to a greater sense of reward and euphoria than is normally experienced in other activities. This can help explain why people who are addicted to gambling feel compelled to continue their habit, even when it is harming their health or their relationships.

Another reason that gambling is considered an addiction is because the behavior is difficult to control. A person who is addicted to gambling will often try to hide their behavior and lie to friends and family about how much they are spending on their gambling. This is often accompanied by other symptoms of addiction, such as depression or drug abuse.

The most common treatment for gambling addiction is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which teaches people to confront irrational thoughts and behaviors, such as the belief that a string of losses or near misses will eventually turn into a big win. It is also common to prescribe antidepressants or other medications that act as a mild sedative and reduce cravings. For more severe cases, a physician may recommend naltrexone, an opiate antagonist that decreases the production of dopamine, which is associated with addictive behavior. This medication can be taken orally, as a pill, or intravenously, as a shot. It has been shown to be effective in treating alcohol and substance addictions, as well as gambling disorders. For more information, check out BetterHelp’s gambling counseling service.