Gambling Addiction

Gambling is risking money or something of value on the outcome of a game involving chance, such as scratchcards, bingo, fruit machines and betting with friends. It ranges from the purchase of lottery tickets by people with little income to sophisticated casino gambling by the rich. Gambling can also be conducted with material items that have value but are not money, such as marbles or collectible cards in games of Pogs and Magic: The Gathering.

While some individuals enjoy gambling for the social interaction, it is more often seen as a way to escape from personal problems, stress or boredom. Individuals with a problem may be depressed, anxious or suffering from substance abuse, which can trigger or make worse a gambling addiction. The media depicts gambling as a glamorous, exciting and fashionable activity, encouraging people to place bets in order to experience a rush of excitement.

The urge to gamble is triggered by the release of dopamine in the brain. It’s the same neurotransmitter that produces feelings of reward when we eat candy, and it can be addictive. People can become addicted to gambling even if they have no family history of the disorder. It can affect people of all races and religions, age groups and economic levels — from small towns to big cities. The DSM-5 has placed gambling disorder into a new category of behavioral addictions, because research shows that it is similar to substance abuse in terms of brain origin, comorbidity and treatment.