Gambling Disorders

Gambling is the betting of something of value, such as money or property, on an event whose outcome is determined by chance. The bettors are hoping to win more than they risked, either through winning the game or receiving a prize such as cash or goods. A significant subset of people who gamble develop a gambling disorder, defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a pattern of persistent, recurrent gambling that results in substantial distress or impairment.

Gambling can be fun and offer a rush when things go your way, but it is important to recognize when you should quit. In addition, it is important to understand the factors that can lead to problem gambling and how to avoid them.

Generally, the amount of money you have available to gamble is directly related to your ability to make smart choices. A good rule of thumb is to only gamble with disposable income that you can afford to lose. Never use money that you need for rent, utilities, or other expenses. Also, do not borrow to gamble. This can lead to a cycle of debt and stress that can be hard to break.

Many people find gambling addictive because of the brain chemical that makes them feel excited, dopamine. Normally, the brain only produces this feeling when you win, but in gambling, you can experience it even when you lose. This can be very dangerous, and it is often the reason why gambling becomes a problem for some people.

Another risk factor is a preoccupation with gambling and lying to family members or therapists about it. Symptoms of a gambling disorder include lying to conceal the extent of your involvement in gambling; trying to increase wager sizes to maintain the excitement level of your gambling; committing illegal acts, such as forgery or theft, to finance gambling activities; jeopardizing relationships, education, and employment opportunities in order to gamble; and relying on others to manage financial situations caused by gambling (American Psychiatric Association, 1994).

The best way to combat problems with gambling is to strengthen your support network. This can be done by spending time with friends who do not engage in gambling or joining a group such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. It is also important to make sure that you have a variety of enjoyable activities other than gambling, so that you are not tempted to gamble when you are bored. Finally, it is important to avoid gambling when you are depressed, upset, or in pain, because these emotions can interfere with your decision-making skills.