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Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction


Gambling is the staking of something of value, including money, on an uncertain outcome of a game or contest. People gamble in casinos, racetracks and other venues that offer gambling opportunities. They also wager on sporting events, such as soccer matches. A rough estimate of the amount of money legally wagered on these events is $10 trillion per year. Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors. It affects between 0.4-1.6% of Americans. Typically, it begins in adolescence or young adulthood and is more prevalent among men than women. The majority of PG sufferers report problems with strategic or face-to-face gambling, such as poker or blackjack. Less common are problems with nonstrategic forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

While some people may enjoy gambling and play responsibly, others find that they can’t control their urges and become addicted to it. This type of addiction is referred to as compulsive or problem gambling and can cause serious problems with relationships, finances and work. It is a treatable disorder and a person with a gambling problem can benefit from therapy.

It is important to understand that a gambling problem does not necessarily indicate a mental illness, although it can sometimes do so. There are several factors that can lead to a gambling addiction, such as impulsivity, genetic predisposition and a person’s environment. Longitudinal studies are needed to understand these factors and how they relate to a person’s tendency to engage in problematic gambling behaviors.

When a person gambles, the brain sends massive surges of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps to reward and motivate us, but it can become addictive when excessive amounts are consumed. The surges of dopamine can make it difficult to think rationally about one’s decisions. It can also depress the part of the brain responsible for judgment and emotions, making it harder to weigh the risks versus the rewards.

Gambling addiction is a complex issue, and it can be difficult to admit that you have a problem. However, there are many treatment options available, such as individual or family therapy and credit counseling. In addition, there are support groups for people with gambling disorders, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to that of Alcoholics Anonymous.

If you have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. You can find help by speaking with a therapist who specializes in gambling addiction. You can also reach out to friends and family for support, and try to find other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom. Examples of healthy activities that can replace gambling include exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, taking up a hobby, or practicing relaxation techniques.