Gambling Addiction

May 17, 2024 by No Comments

Gambling is the risking of something of value upon a random event not under one’s control or influence, with the intention to win a prize. It includes any activity where a person stakes or risks something of value on an uncertain outcome of a contest, game or race and does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts such as pawn shops and some forms of insurance (life, health and accident).

A major problem with gambling is that it overstimulates the brain’s reward system. This can cause individuals to lose control over their betting or gaming behaviour, leading them down a slippery slope into financial distress. It can also lead to problems at work or family, or even unemployment. Some people can become addicted to gambling, and this is known as problem gambling or pathological gambling. Pathological gamblers have darker motives for their gambling, and these tend to override any enjoyment they may get from the game.

People who have a gambling addiction are often socially excluded and they can be attracted to shady casinos, street magic boxes or online gambling sites. These can provide an opportunity to meet new people or to feel connected to a community, but they can also have negative consequences on mental and physical health, work and relationships. It can also be a way of escaping from other issues that a person may be struggling with, such as boredom, depression or anxiety.

It is important to recognise that people can experience difficulty stopping their gambling behaviour and that it is not something to be embarrassed about. Many people find it easier to walk away after a few rounds of poker or putting a few coins in the slot machine, but others are unable to do this and they may develop an addiction. A key part of treating this is to address the underlying issues that are driving the problem.

Several factors can contribute to a gambling addiction, including: irrational beliefs, the illusion of control, the use of escapism as a coping mechanism and negative life events. There is some evidence that certain drugs can also trigger a gambling addiction.

There is also a growing understanding of the biological underpinnings of gambling addiction and this is changing the way that psychiatrists approach treatment. For example, it is now understood that the brains of people who have a gambling disorder are different from those of other people. This is called a neurobiological definition of addiction.

In the past, psychologists and psychiatrists would classify people who have a gambling disorder as having a personality or behavioural problem; today they are classified as having a mental health condition. This change has been partly driven by the recognition that people who have a gambling disorder have an illness and should be treated like other illnesses such as alcoholism and drug addiction. The medical profession is also recognising that a number of psychological treatments are effective for addressing a gambling addiction, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy, where patients learn to challenge their irrational thoughts and habits and practice healthier coping mechanisms.