The euphoria of winning money is a tempting rush, but gambling can be addictive. It’s important to understand what you’re doing, whether you’re going to a casino, online or on your local high street.
Gambling is a form of risk-taking on something that’s based on chance, such as lottery games, scratchcards, fruit machines or gambling with friends. People gamble for entertainment, to make money and sometimes even to escape from real life worries. However, for some people it can become a serious problem that leads to financial and personal problems.
Problem gambling can affect anyone. It can be triggered by mental health issues, including depression, anxiety and bipolar disorder. It can also be caused by financial problems, such as debt, and a lack of basic needs like shelter and food. In some cases it can lead to thoughts of suicide, which are very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency.
In the past, the psychiatric community didn’t treat gambling as a genuine addiction because it was thought that it was a compulsion rather than an impulse control disorder such as kleptomania or trichotillomania (hair pulling). However, in a major change, the APA decided to move pathological gambling into the Addictions chapter of the DSM in May this year, joining other impulsive disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania.
If you’re worried about your own or a friend’s gambling habits, there are many organisations that offer help and advice. They can help you stop gambling, deal with any underlying issues and improve your finances. They can provide you with treatment, support groups and self-help tips. It’s also worth remembering that if you are going to gamble, only use money you can afford to lose and don’t be tempted by free cocktails. Casinos are designed to take your money so don’t fall into the trap of thinking you can get it all back by increasing your stakes. This is known as chasing your losses and is a common mistake that can lead to a gambling addiction.
When you gamble, the brain releases a chemical called dopamine. This helps you learn from your mistakes and improve your skills. But in problem gambling, this reward pathway is disrupted and instead the gambling becomes a way to avoid negative emotions or meet your needs. In addition, it can cause stress and anxiety if you’re constantly worried about losing your money.