Gambling is the act of risking something of value, usually money, on an outcome that is determined at least partly by chance, such as a game of chance, a skill-based activity, or a sporting event. Gambling can take place in casinos, lotteries, and online, and it can be legal or illegal. People may gamble for fun, for profit or as a way to relieve stress. In some cases, gambling can become an addiction that causes severe social and financial problems. It can also lead to other disorders, such as depression or substance abuse.
Researchers studying how gambling changes the brain are discovering more about what makes some people prone to addiction. They’re finding that people who develop gambling disorder have dramatic alterations in the way their brain sends chemical messages. They’re also more likely to have genetic or psychological predispositions that make them prone to problem gambling.
Studies have shown that many pathological gamblers have a lifetime history of mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder. These disorders are linked to higher rates of impulsivity and poor decision-making. Many studies have also found that pathological gambling is associated with an increased risk of death, particularly suicide. However, a study of suicide attempts in a treatment-seeking sample found that these were not the only factors associated with suicidal behavior, and they could not explain all suicides.
Although it’s difficult to stop gambling, there are effective treatments available. Getting support from family and friends can help, and counseling can help you work through the issues that caused your problem gambling and find ways to solve them. You can also try to learn healthier ways of relieving unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. You might also consider joining a gambling recovery program like Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous.
While the research on gambling addiction is still evolving, new evidence suggests that it can be a treatable condition. One treatment that appears to be effective is cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps a person confront irrational beliefs and behaviors. In addition to learning how to control their urges, problem gamblers can also learn to recognize the triggers that lead them to gamble and how to avoid them. This can be especially useful for those who are dealing with financial issues, as the risk of losing money can be a major trigger for gambling.