Most adults and adolescents have placed a bet or gambled in some way, most without problems. But some people develop gambling disorder, which is characterized by uncontrollable urges to gamble that lead to serious financial or other personal problems. People may also experience a range of emotional and psychological symptoms, including anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts.
Gambling involves placing a bet on a random event in the hope of winning something else of value. This is a risky activity and it can be very addictive. People are often tempted to gamble because it sends huge surges of dopamine through the brain, which makes them feel good. However, these dopamine surges can actually be harmful because they deprive the brain of the healthy pleasures that come from things like a good meal or spending time with loved ones.
The first step to overcoming gambling problems is admitting that you have a problem. You can get help by speaking to a therapist or finding support groups online. It is also helpful to address any underlying mood disorders that are contributing to your gambling behavior. Depression, stress and substance abuse are common causes of compulsive gambling and can make it difficult to break the habit.
Other ways to deal with cravings for gambling include distracting yourself, exercising or spending time with friends who don’t gamble. If you are trying to stop gambling and are struggling financially, speak to a debt adviser at StepChange or join a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.