Gambling is a risk-taking activity where you stake something of value on a random event in hopes of winning money or other prizes. People gamble for different reasons, some enjoy the adrenaline rush of trying to win money and others may seek socialising or escape from stress or worries. For many people gambling can be a source of fun but for those who become compulsive it can have serious health consequences. If you find yourself spending more than you can afford to lose or putting your finances at risk it is time to seek help.
The psychiatric community once regarded pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, but in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association classified it along with kleptomania and pyromania as impulse control disorders. It is important to understand the factors that influence gambling behaviour in order to improve treatment outcomes.
Research into the psychology of gambling has produced a number of theories to explain why some individuals have trouble controlling their urges to gamble. For example, some individuals have an underactive brain reward system which makes them more susceptible to thrill-seeking and impulsive behaviours. Others have a predisposition to gamble based on family history and their culture.
While there are some medications to treat underlying conditions, such as depression and anxiety, counselling and other support services can provide the necessary tools for change. It is also important to consider other options for recreation and to budget gambling as an expense, just like going out for dinner.