Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the act of placing a wager on an uncertain outcome, such as the results of a game or a race. It can be done with money or other items of value. It involves risk and hope, but strategy is rarely involved. It may also be done socially, such as betting with friends or family members in games like marbles or Magic: The Gathering.

Problematic gambling can be difficult to stop because it changes the way our brains respond to rewards. When we experience something positive, such as spending time with a friend or eating a good meal, our bodies release a chemical called dopamine, which reinforces those behaviors and helps us to seek them out in the future. Problematic gambling changes this reward pathway and causes us to seek out short term relief through risky behaviors that can have long term consequences.

A person who has a gambling disorder is often motivated to gamble by an early big win, a desire to replicate the size of that win or a wish to escape boredom or stress. Other factors include impulsivity, a poor understanding of random events, the use of escape coping and coexisting mood disorders like depression.

If you struggle with gambling addiction, consider seeking counseling. A counselor can help you understand why you are gambling and how it affects your life, and they can teach you healthy ways to cope with stress and boredom. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have any medications approved for the treatment of gambling disorders, but several types of psychotherapy are available.