Whether you’re a fan of lottery tickets, scratchcards, video poker, bingo or slot machines, gambling is betting something of value on an uncertain event with the intent of winning something of greater value. It can be fun, but gambling is addictive and can cost people not only their money, but their jobs, family and relationships as well. In some cases, problem gambling can lead to serious mental health issues, including pathological gambling (PG).
The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is recognizing that there is one, and it takes a lot of strength and courage to admit this to yourself, especially if the behavior has caused you to lose significant amounts of money or has strained or even broken relationships. But you don’t have to go it alone. Many others have fought the same battle and have successfully regained control of their lives, often with the help of a therapist.
When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine – the feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you excited when you eat or sex or take drugs – and this plays a key role in the appeal of gambling. Research shows that dopamine levels increase specifically when you are anticipating a reward, such as the chance of a jackpot win.
If you have a loved one with a gambling problem, try to set boundaries for how much they can spend and stick to them. This may include not allowing them to use your credit cards and ensuring that they don’t have access to the family bank accounts. It’s also important to find a support network. Joining a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, can be an invaluable source of encouragement and guidance.