Gambling is risking something of value (like money or possessions) on an event with a potential to win an even greater amount of value. It can occur in a variety of ways: Casino games, fruit machines, two-up, poker, roulette and slots; betting on sports or other events; horse or greyhound racing; lottery tickets; and even gambling online. Gambling disorder, also known as compulsive gambling, is an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite the negative consequences of the behavior.
Gambling disorders may be mild or severe. The symptoms include: a desire to gamble even when the behavior causes problems; attempts to control or reduce gambling activity despite repeated unsuccessful attempts; restlessness or irritability when trying to stop or control gambling; and recurring thoughts about gambling that persist in spite of efforts to suppress them. People with gambling disorders may also lose important relationships, jobs, or school opportunities due to their behavior.
It is possible to recover from a gambling problem, but it takes commitment and effort. It is also important to seek help. Many organizations offer support, advice and counselling to people affected by gambling disorder. These services are free of charge and available to anyone who is interested.
Some of these organizations also provide family therapy and marriage, career and credit counseling to deal with the problems caused by gambling. These services can be especially helpful for families where one spouse has a gambling addiction and the other does not.
There are several treatment options for gambling disorders, including self-help groups such as Gam-Anon and Alcoholics Anonymous, counseling, and medication. Counseling can help a person understand their gambling problems and identify triggers. It can also help them develop strategies for overcoming their problem and rebuilding their lives. Medications that block the effects of dopamine are particularly effective in reducing cravings. Some antidepressants and other medications used to treat impulse-control disorders, such as trichotillomania, also help to manage gambling addictions.
Research suggests that pathological gamblers have a different brain than other people, which could explain why their urges to gamble are so strong. For example, researchers have found that pathological gamblers have lower levels of electrical activity in the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in assessing risks and inhibiting instincts.
Gambling addiction can affect anyone, from any walk of life. It can begin as a harmless diversion and quickly escalate into an unhealthy obsession that has the potential to ruin lives, strain relationships and cause financial disaster. If you think you or a loved one have a gambling problem, get help as soon as possible. The earlier it is recognized, the sooner you can start a new chapter in your life. If you cannot afford to pay for professional treatment, there are government-funded gambling helplines and support services. There are also private organizations that offer assistance and therapy for a fee. In addition, some casinos have programs that allow a patron to voluntarily ban himself or herself and prominently display brochures about Gamblers Anonymous and other treatment options.