Recognizing Problem Gambling

Gambling involves risking something of value (such as money or possessions) on an event with a random element of chance and the intention of winning. Some people may find gambling an exciting and rewarding experience, but others may be unable to control their behavior when it comes to gambling and it can negatively impact their health and relationships. Some cultures embrace gambling as a social activity and this can make it difficult to recognize when a person has a problem.

Research shows that when you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited. However, your brain can release this dopamine even when you lose, which can confuse your decision-making and make it hard to stop gambling. You may also be influenced by other factors that trigger problematic gambling, such as mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, or alcohol use.

If you are concerned that your or a loved one’s gambling is out of control, seek treatment. A therapist can help you understand your problem and provide effective treatments, including cognitive-behavioral therapy, which can change unhealthy gambling behaviors and false beliefs. Therapy can also help you solve problems caused by problem gambling, such as financial, work, or family issues.

Set a limit for how much you’re willing to gamble and stick to it. Try to only gamble with cash and don’t use credit cards. Avoid activities that are high-risk, such as sports betting or lottery tickets. Don’t chase your losses – the more you try to win back your money, the larger your losses will be.