What Is Gambling Disorder?


Gambling is placing something of value, such as money, on an event that involves a degree of chance and the potential to win a prize. This includes betting on horse races, dog races, football games, basketball and other sports events, lottery tickets, cards, dice, bingo and machines. It does not include bona fide business transactions, such as contracts of insurance or guaranty and life, health or property insurance.

Many people gamble to have fun or try to make money. However, gambling can also cause a variety of mental health problems, such as anxiety and depression. In addition, it can lead to problems with relationships, work and school. Gambling is considered an addictive behavior and can be harmful if it becomes out of control.

Research has shown that certain biological factors contribute to the development of gambling disorder. For example, some people may have an underactive brain reward system, while others are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviour and impulsivity. Other risk factors include childhood trauma and exposure to gambling in the home or family members with gambling disorders.

Some people with gambling disorder are unable to stop or limit their gambling even when it has serious consequences. They might lie to family members, therapists or employers about the extent of their gambling activities and may hide evidence of their gambling from friends and coworkers. They might even steal money to fund their gambling. They might have a hard time distinguishing between a real financial need and a desire to gamble.

In addition, people with gambling disorder tend to experience a variety of emotional symptoms, such as guilt, anxiety and depression. They might become irritable, angry or aggressive when they lose. They might also feel a sense of powerlessness and helplessness, especially when they have lost significant amounts of money. They might have thoughts of suicide or wish to kill themselves, and they may experience nightmares or flashbacks of past gambling-related incidents.

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent gambling disorder, including setting money and time limits and not using credit or other forms of debt to fund gambling. It is also important to strengthen social support and find new activities that bring enjoyment without the possibility of winning or losing money. Some ideas for new activities include taking up a hobby, reading a book or attending a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous (a 12-step program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous). For some people, physical activity can also reduce cravings to gamble. Finally, it is important to recognize that gambling is not a way to get out of financial trouble and seek professional help if needed.

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