Is It Possible to Become Addicted to Gambling?


Gambling involves risking something valuable, usually money or possessions, for the hope of winning a prize. It is most often seen in casinos, but it can also happen at racetracks, church halls, sporting events and even on the Internet.

Most people gamble for fun, with friends or family, and in private settings. Many people also make bets on sports, such as football or horse races, with colleagues and friends, which are also considered gambling but in a social setting and not for monetary gain. It is possible to become addicted to gambling, which is a psychological disorder and is recognised as such in the DSM (American Psychiatric Association) manual of mental disorders.

Some people are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted to gambling and experience dramatic alterations in the brain’s chemical messengers when they gamble excessively. This, combined with poor financial management and the temptation to try to ‘make up’ for past losses can lead a person down a dangerous path towards addiction.

Research has shown that a person’s enjoyment of gambling increases with the amount they win and the frequency with which they win. It is therefore very difficult to quit gambling once a person has experienced their first win, particularly if it is a large sum of money. This is because the brain’s reward system has been activated and a feel-good chemical, dopamine, has been released, making it difficult to stop playing.

People who gamble for fun or to pass the time may be unable to control their impulses to gamble, especially if they are surrounded by other people who are gambling. The social pressure to keep gambling can be overwhelming and the desire to experience the euphoria again and again can be too much to resist. Gambling can also be used to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as boredom or loneliness, or to soothe a negative mood triggered by depression or stress. However, there are other ways to relieve these feelings that do not involve gambling, such as exercising, spending time with friends who do not gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

The biggest step for a person with an addictive tendency to gamble is to recognise that they have a problem. This can be a hard thing to do, especially if it has cost them money and caused strained or broken relationships with others. However, it is not unusual for a person who has a gambling problem to overcome it, with the help of a therapist or support group.

For family members of people with gambling problems, it is important to set boundaries in managing money. This can include taking over credit cards, putting someone else in charge of finances, having the bank make automatic payments, and closing online betting accounts. It is also helpful to encourage your loved one to seek therapy and learn healthier and safer ways of coping with their negative emotions.