Gambling As an Addiction

Gambling As an Addiction

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome. It can involve money, items of personal value or anything else that has a monetary worth.

Many people engage in gambling activities on a private level without it becoming a problem, such as betting on sporting events or card games with friends. However, for some, gambling can become addictive and take over their life, causing problems such as debt and relationships difficulties. In addition, it is known that the activity may cause psychological and emotional distress and has been associated with drug abuse and suicide.

It is also important to remember that it’s not just the gambling itself that’s harmful, it’s how you react to it and your overall mental health and happiness that matters. When someone is engaging in unhealthy gambling activities, it can be difficult to get them to understand that their behaviour is problematic and needs to change. If you are worried about a loved one, try to understand why they are engaging in this activity and consider the treatment options available to help them.

People are very sensitive to losses and feel much more disappointed and frustrated by them than they do when they gain the same amount of money. This is why gamblers are prone to spending their time and money trying to recoup their losses, rather than enjoying the excitement of winning. Often, they will end up investing even more money than they lost to do this – a vicious cycle that can spiral out of control.

In the past, the psychiatric community regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction and placed it in a category with other impulse-control disorders like kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (burning). However, after 15 years of deliberation, the American Psychiatric Association has decided to move the disorder into the addictions chapter of its latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

This is a significant move that reflects new understandings of the biology underlying addiction, as well as an understanding that there are some similarities between gambling and other drugs of abuse. Research has shown that gambling can trigger changes in the brain’s reward circuits, as well as increased levels of dopamine – which are similar to the effects of some drugs of abuse.

When someone gambles, they usually choose what to bet on – it could be a football match, a horse race or a scratchcard. Their decision is then matched to ‘odds’, which determine how much they can win if they are successful. These odds are calculated using the probabilities of each event occurring – for example, flipping a coin and getting tails 7 times in a row doesn’t make the chance of getting heads the next any higher than 50%. It is these kinds of rationalisations that can lead to harmful gambling behaviour.