Whether buying lottery tickets, placing bets on horses or sports events or using the pokies, gambling is an activity that many people do. For some it is a fun pastime that they enjoy, but for others it can be harmful and cause problems with relationships, work and study and even lead to debt and homelessness. Gambling is also linked to suicide. So if you have a gambling problem, seek help. Talk to a friend, family member or professional counsellor. Call a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Postpone gambling if you can to give yourself time to think it through and try to avoid making decisions while you’re high. You can also speak to a money advisor or visit StepChange for free, confidential debt advice. Taking up a hobby such as walking, yoga or meditation can also help with the symptoms.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally regarded pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction, but in a landmark decision this year, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder to the addictions section of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM. The move is a recognition of the biological roots of addiction and may change how psychiatrists treat those with the condition, which is characterized by an intense desire to gamble and an inability to stop.
The underlying brain mechanisms of addictive behavior are the same as those for other forms of addiction, such as alcohol and drug abuse, according to experts who study the field. The reward centers of the brain are affected, and a person with an addiction to gambling may be just as dependent on dopamine as someone who takes drugs.
Gambling can help improve math skills and pattern recognition, as well as promote socialization among friends and family. It can also sharpen strategic thinking and analytical skills by encouraging players to adopt tactics and develop a deeper understanding of probability. In addition, gambling can be a great way to relieve boredom or stress.
Although the odds of winning in gambling are low, most people will lose money if they gamble regularly. It’s important to remember that the amount of money lost can have a significant effect on your life and finances, so be careful with your spending. You should only gamble with money that you can afford to lose.
For those with serious gambling problems, treatment is often very successful. It may include cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and group therapy. In some cases, medication may be prescribed to help control symptoms. The key to treating gambling disorders is finding the right treatment for you.