Pathological Gambling

Gambling involves risking money or something of value on an event whose outcome is determined at least in part by chance with the hope of winning more money or something else of value. It is a form of entertainment, and is regulated by state and federal laws. It can be fun to play, but it can also lead to serious problems for some people. Pathological gambling is now recognised as an addiction similar to substance abuse, and it can cause psychological and physical harm. It can also cause financial problems, affect family and social relationships and even lead to homelessness.

Although people often think of casino games and slot machines when they hear the term ‘gambling’, there are many other forms of gambling that can be just as dangerous. Buying scratch cards, playing bingo and other games of chance, betting with friends on sports events and buying lottery tickets are all considered forms of gambling. People who are addicted to these activities can find it very difficult to stop, and they may be able to control their behaviour when they are not gambling, but once the habit has taken hold, it becomes very hard to break.

The reason why gambling can become addictive is that people are able to sustain their gambling behaviours, despite a high probability of losing, because they experience a reward in the moment when they make a bet and receive a win. It is thought that the way this reward is received by the brain is a key factor in the development of gambling problems. In addition, it is believed that people can be highly sensitive to their losses and less sensitive to their wins, which can make them feel even more depressed when they lose than when they win.

Another important factor in gambling is impulsiveness. Studies have shown that a person’s tendency to take risks and their ability to inhibit impulses are linked with their likelihood of becoming a gambler. These factors, together with genetic and psychological predispositions, mean that some people are more likely to develop a gambling problem than others.

There are a number of things you can do to help you avoid gambling problems. One of the most effective is to strengthen your support network, and seek help for any underlying mood disorders like depression, stress or anxiety that can both trigger gambling problems and be made worse by compulsive gambling. You can also get rid of credit cards, put someone in charge of your money, close online gambling accounts, and carry only a small amount of cash with you. It is also very important to see a counsellor who can help you work through the specific issues that have led to your gambling problems, and build a strong foundation for recovery. You could also consider attending a group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is a peer support group based on the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. This is a great place to meet people who have experienced the same things that you are going through and offer encouragement and advice.