Gambling involves risking something of value (money, goods, services) on an event with a significant element of chance in order to win a prize. It can include games such as baccarat, blackjack, roulette, video poker, bingo, slot machines, instant scratch cards, dead pool, lotteries, and Mahjong.
Humans are biologically programmed to seek rewards. When we do things like spend time with loved ones, eat healthy foods, exercise and work hard, our brain releases the chemical dopamine which gives us a sense of pleasure. However, some people may develop a gambling addiction, which can send massive surges of dopamine through the brain and make them feel good, but in ways that are different from healthy behaviors. This leads to harmful behavior, including compulsive gambling.
If you or someone you know is concerned about a gambling problem, talk to your doctor about getting help. A therapist can help you understand the underlying causes of your gambling and recommend treatment options to stop gambling and get back on track.
It is also important to address any mood disorders, such as depression, which can trigger or make worse gambling problems and are often overlooked. Likewise, it is important to seek help for any coexisting conditions that can be caused by or make worse gambling disorder such as anxiety, stress, substance abuse and eating disorders. Longitudinal studies that follow a group of people over time are the best way to understand how these factors interact with and influence each other.