Gambling Addiction

As the popularity of gambling grows around the world, more and more people are finding themselves struggling with gambling addiction. Working in the field of problem gambling treatment and prevention, it is clear that a number of different factors can contribute to someone becoming addicted. It is important to understand that gambling isn’t just about money, it is also about escapism and thrill. In many cases, gambling becomes a form of self-medication, using it to cope with anxiety and depression. It’s also often used to meet basic human needs, such as a sense of belonging or achievement.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value. It can be done with cash or other assets such as collectible items (e.g., marbles, Pogs or Magic: The Gathering trading cards) and can involve both skill and chance. Skill may improve the chances of winning, for example, a bettor’s knowledge of betting strategies can increase their odds of wining a game of poker, but the outcome of a lottery or horse race is largely determined by chance.

Some people are able to walk away from a game of poker or a slot machine after a few rounds, but others struggle to do so and find themselves spending more and more of their time gambling. This is a sign of problem gambling, which can be very dangerous. When gambling is a problem, it hijacks the brain’s reward pathway and becomes more about chasing losses than achieving long term satisfaction. It is thought that this change in the reward pathway is a result of impulsivity, which is often linked to gambling addiction. Research has shown that some people are more prone to risk-taking behaviours and impulse control problems than others, and this can be influenced by genetics and other biological factors.

A key part of the problem is that, unlike drugs, gambling does not require ingesting any chemicals. However, it still produces the same dopamine response and therefore can be just as addictive. This is why it is so important for those who gamble to do so responsibly and never use money that they need to pay bills or rent on gambling. It’s also a good idea to only gamble with disposable income, rather than with money that would be needed for other life necessities.

It’s important to remember that the person who is gambling is not at fault. They likely don’t even realise that their actions are a problem and are usually doing it for one of four reasons: