Recognising the Signs and Effects of Gambling Addiction

Gambling involves wagering something of value on a random event with the intention of winning something else of value. It is a form of risk-taking that can be extremely addictive. People gamble for a variety of reasons: for fun, for money, to escape from daily stressors, or as a way to feel a rush or high. It is important to recognise the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction so that you can take action if you think you or someone you know has a problem.

Unlike drugs, which require ingesting chemical substances to be effective, gambling produces the same dopamine response in the brain. In fact, many casinos are designed around this principle; to encourage players to spend more and more time at the casino. People often use gambling to meet basic human needs, such as the need for a sense of belonging and the desire for status and specialness. It is also possible for people to become addicted to gambling as a result of underlying medical conditions, such as depression or anxiety.

In the past, psychiatric experts viewed pathological gambling as a compulsion rather than an addiction. It is now recognised that there are biological factors behind gambling addiction, and a new generation of treatments is proving highly effective. This change in understanding is reflected in the recent decision to move pathological gambling into the section of DSM-5 on impulse control disorders alongside kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).

Although it is not an essential part of most societies, gambling has existed in every culture from the most primitive to the most complex. Dice games have been found in Stone Age cultures; and there is evidence of a dice game at the base of the Acropolis in Athens. Today, people can bet on a variety of events via the Internet and at many land-based casinos and sports stadiums.

Gambling can be a very dangerous activity, especially for those with mental health problems, such as anxiety or depression. It is important to recognise the signs and effects of gambling addiction so that you can take action and seek help if needed.

It is also important to understand why a person might gamble, so that you can better support them in their recovery journey. Watch this video to learn more about the neuroscience of gambling, and to see how an early win can impact on a person’s ability to stop.

The majority of gambling is done in a private setting, such as playing cards with friends, making bets on sports events, or placing a small bet at a bar for a free cocktail. Some people gamble for social reasons, such as wanting to win a big jackpot and changing their lifestyles, while others do it to escape from stressful everyday life or to relieve boredom. Lastly, there are those who become heavily addicted to gambling for financial reasons. Regardless of the motivation, gambling can have serious consequences for anyone who becomes addicted.

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