Gambling is an activity in which people wager something of value on a random event with the intention of winning. The term is often used to refer to casino gambling, but it also includes other forms of betting, such as sports wagering, office pool betting, and buying lottery or scratch tickets. Although many people have gambled at some point, there are people who develop harmful gambling habits that affect their lives. There are a variety of factors that can lead to problematic gambling, including mood disorders, family history, coping styles, and social learning.
In the past, psychiatry has characterized pathological gambling as a form of impulse control disorder, a group that also includes kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in a move that some see as groundbreaking, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder to a new category on behavioral addictions in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, released this May. This decision reflects the increasing recognition that gambling disorder shares many of the same characteristics as substance dependence.
The reason for this is that the brain produces the same chemical responses during gambling as it does when consuming drugs. Additionally, there are similar cognitive biases that distort perceived odds of an event occurring. This can be a major factor in determining whether a person becomes addicted to gambling.
There is no FDA-approved medication to treat gambling disorder, but there are a number of other treatment options. One option is to seek out peer support through groups such as Gamblers Anonymous. Another is to take a break from the activity, which can help the urge to gamble pass or weaken. It can also be helpful to engage in physical activity, which some research has shown to be effective. Lastly, it can be helpful to make a plan for how much money and time you will allow yourself to spend on gambling and to stick to that plan.
If you’re worried about your gambling, or are concerned that it’s having a negative impact on your life, contact StepChange for free, confidential debt advice. Our debt advisors are trained to help you manage your finances, and can work with you to come up with a strategy to reduce or stop your gambling.