Gambling can be fun and offer a rush when you’re lucky, but it’s not as easy as the movies. For many people, gambling can become a destructive addiction. It’s important to understand what you’re getting yourself into before you head into a twinkly casino with dreams of winning big.
Whether you’re playing slots, betting on the horse races or buying lottery tickets, there are some key things to remember when it comes to gambling. The first step is to decide what you want to gamble with, and only use money that can be spared. The second step is to set a limit for how much you’re willing to lose. Never go into a casino with more than you’re prepared to lose, and don’t be afraid to walk out if you feel the urge getting stronger.
In the US, 0.4-1.6% of adults meet criteria for pathological gambling (PG), a condition marked by repeated maladaptive patterns of behavior. In general, PG develops in adolescence or early adulthood and is more common among men than women. Male PG sufferers report problems with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, while females have a higher rate of occurrence with nonstrategic and less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the thrill of winning money or other prizes, socialising with friends or escaping from their daily routines. However, it’s important to recognise when your gambling is taking over and seek help if necessary.
A large part of the reason why some people can become addicted to gambling is because it triggers a surge of dopamine in the brain, which can have damaging effects on thoughts and feelings. Eventually, this can lead you to seek more gambling stimulation and less healthy ways of achieving pleasure, such as drug use or shopping.
The US Food and Drug Administration hasn’t approved any medications to treat a gambling disorder, but psychotherapy can be helpful. This is a type of treatment that helps you identify unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors and change them. It’s often done with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker. Alternatively, you can join a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the 12-step recovery program of Alcoholics Anonymous.
While it’s tempting to blame gambling for the economic woes of some families, research is starting to show that there are underlying biological and environmental factors that make some people more susceptible to gambling problems. Longitudinal studies are helping researchers pinpoint the mechanisms that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation. This kind of research is crucial as it will allow more precise interventions to be developed to tackle the growing problem of gambling. This is especially important, given that many forms of gambling are available online. A lot of these sites are regulated by the government and can be safe for users to play. For more information on gambling safety and regulation, visit the Responsible Gambling Council.