Gambling is the risking of something of value (such as money) on an event that has a degree of uncertainty, such as a football match, a lottery, or a scratchcard. The player bets on a particular outcome of the event and is paid if they are right; otherwise, they lose their money. People can gamble with coins, cards, dice, fruit machines, lottery tickets, online games, instant scratchcards, and races.
Gambling can have negative effects, especially if it becomes compulsive and interferes with a person’s life and relationships. It is also associated with higher rates of depression and other mental illnesses, and can make existing mood disorders worse. It can also be a major cause of debt and bankruptcy, leading to homelessness. People who are gambling addicts often lie to family members and therapists to conceal the extent of their addiction, or may steal to fund their habit.
Studies of the human brain have shown that gambling activates areas that are similar to those stimulated by drugs of abuse. It also causes a chemical release called dopamine, which is responsible for the pleasure and reward we experience when we win or lose. This is why many people feel addicted to gambling.
While the underlying mental health issues of gambling can be dangerous, it is not necessarily a psychiatric disorder and has therefore been moved out of the ‘disorders’ category in DSM-5 and into a new category on behavioral addictions. However, it is still a major problem for many people and should not be underestimated.
The most common signs of gambling addiction include a desire to gamble all the time, lying about how much you’re spending, and hiding evidence of your behavior. It can be extremely difficult to deal with a loved one’s gambling addiction, but it is important not to go it alone. Consider seeking professional help for yourself and your loved one, including therapy, marriage, credit, and career counseling.
If you think you have a gambling addiction or are concerned about someone else, please contact our confidential counsellors for support. Our counsellors are available around the clock and can provide advice on a range of topics, including gambling, addiction, and relationships. We can also refer you to local support services and resources. All our counselling is free and confidential. Call us today or chat online now to get started! This article was adapted from a piece by Glen Gabbard, MD. American Psychiatric Publishing. 2014. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the publisher. This document does not replace the official edition of the DSM-5, and should not be considered an addendum to it. See the official publication for a complete listing of diagnostic criteria, comorbidity, physiology and treatment.