What is Gambling Disorder?


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event that has a chance of winning a prize. It is a common activity in many countries and there are many forms of gambling including lotteries, casinos, online games and sports betting. While most people who gamble do so without any issues, a small percentage develop an addiction to gambling that can have serious psychological, emotional and financial repercussions. A diagnosis of gambling disorder is included in the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, fifth edition (DSM-5). People with this condition often experience depression, anxiety, stress, digestive disorders and sleep problems. Depending on the severity of their problem, it can also affect relationships, work performance and even lead to homelessness.

Like any other addiction, gambling is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. The reward pathways in the brain are affected, triggering a dopamine response that rewards positive outcomes. This can be beneficial when practicing a skill, such as shooting a basketball into a net, but it becomes harmful when the behaviour is impulsive and unpredictable. In addition, a gambling disorder can be caused by environmental factors such as family history of addictive behaviour, peer pressure and cultural norms.

The ‘high’ that is experienced during gambling can be a powerful motivation to continue the behaviour. However, the ‘low’ that follows a loss is equally strong and can trigger an urge to gamble again in order to feel better. The cycle can then continue and it can be hard to break the habit.

There are ways to reduce your gambling, such as stopping gambling for good or making changes to your behaviour. This could include limiting your gambling time, setting a budget, stopping using credit cards and only keeping a small amount of cash in your wallet. You can also try therapy which includes cognitive behavioural therapy, which helps to change the way you think about gambling and teaches new coping strategies.

It’s important to find other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and taking up a new hobby. You may also want to consider joining a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step recovery program used by Alcoholics Anonymous. A therapist can help you to identify any underlying mental health issues that could be contributing to your gambling and rebuild trust in your relationships. BetterHelp can match you with a therapist who specialises in gambling disorders and addiction. They can help you to overcome your addiction, manage your finances and repair damaged relationships. They can also help you to explore other addictions and work through any underlying mental health issues that are contributing to your gambling. To get started, fill out our quick and easy online questionnaire and we’ll call you back to discuss your options. It’s completely free and confidential.

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