Gambling is any activity where people risk money or items of value on the outcome of a random event. It can involve card games, sports betting, horse races and lotteries. People often gamble for fun, but sometimes it can become addictive. Pathological gambling (PG) is a serious problem that can affect physical and mental health, work or school performance, relationships with family and friends and finances. PG is a complex issue that requires professional help.
When someone gambles, their brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes them feel happy. This may explain why so many people enjoy gambling. But for those with a gambling addiction, these feelings aren’t satisfying and they can cause more harm than good. PG can also lead to other harmful behaviors, including lying and hiding evidence of gambling.
People who are addicted to gambling can lose large amounts of money, ruining their financial security. They can even be thrown into debt and possibly become homeless. The most important step to overcoming this type of addiction is realizing that you have a problem. But it can take time and courage to accept that you need help.
If you have a gambling problem, you should try to find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings. You can try exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or trying new hobbies. You can also seek support from a friend or family member, a therapist or a self-help group like Gamblers Anonymous.
It’s also important to set money and time limits for gambling. Only gamble with what you can afford to lose, and stop when you hit your limit. Avoid chasing your losses – this will usually only make things worse. And be sure to budget gambling as an entertainment expense, rather than an income-generating activity.
Over half of the UK population takes part in gambling activities. For some, this can be a fun pastime that gives them pleasure and excitement. But for others, it can become a problem that interferes with their personal and professional lives, leading to a loss of control, poor health and depression, as well as straining or destroying relationships. It can also have negative effects on the wider community, including crime and homelessness.
In the past, the psychiatric community has largely considered gambling to be an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania and pyromania. However, in a move that has been hailed as a milestone, the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) has reclassified pathological gambling as an addiction. This reflects a growing understanding of the biology underlying gambling addiction. The reclassification is expected to increase awareness and research into effective treatment options.