Gambling Addiction


Gambling involves placing something of value (money, goods, services or personal possessions) on a chance event with the intent to gain something else of value. This activity can range from playing a game of cards with friends for small amounts, to buying lottery tickets or betting on sports games and horse races, to more sophisticated casino gambling. Gambling is illegal in some countries and is a common source of conflict between families, especially when it causes financial ruin.

Gamblers typically experience positive and negative emotions. The positive emotions include feelings of enjoyment and anticipation. The negative emotions may involve feelings of guilt and regret. Some people develop a problem with gambling when the urge to gamble overcomes their ability to control their behavior. The impulse control problems associated with gambling are a result of an inability to regulate the levels of certain chemicals in the brain, such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. These chemicals stimulate the reward centers of the brain, producing pleasure. However, as an individual continues to gamble, these chemicals are depleted and the person begins to need more and more gambling activities to feel pleasure.

In addition to a lack of control, gambling can have devastating psychological and physical effects. These may include depression, anxiety and substance abuse. In severe cases, gambling can even lead to suicide.

A number of factors contribute to gambling addiction, including genetics, environment and social influence. Gambling addiction is also linked to poor judgment and cognitive distortions. It can also cause an individual to lie and steal.

There are a variety of ways to seek treatment for gambling addiction. Some individuals find that a combination of behavioral therapy, family therapy and self-help support groups are effective. A person may also benefit from receiving education about gambling and the risks involved. Lastly, it may be helpful to make changes in one’s lifestyle and surroundings, such as seeking out more social activities that don’t involve gambling.

Many people who have a gambling addiction struggle to admit that there is a problem, and the stigma surrounding gambling can further reinforce their denial. Family members of those who have a gambling addiction may also be reluctant to seek help, but it is important for them to reach out for support and assistance. They may also need to set clear boundaries in managing their loved one’s money, so that they do not fall into a gambling trap. This can be done through counseling and by attending a support group for gambling families such as Gam-Anon. They can also seek financial advice and credit counseling. Moreover, they can join family and couples therapy programs. This can help them work through the specific issues that have been caused by their loved one’s gambling behavior and lay the foundation for a healthier relationship. They can also seek the help of a therapist trained in treating gambling disorder. These professionals are often familiar with the 12-step program of recovery that is used by Gamblers Anonymous, and they can guide them in their recovery journey.