Whether placing a bet, playing a game of cards or buying a lottery ticket, Gambling involves risking something of value in the hope of winning something of greater value. It can stimulate the brain’s reward system in a way that drugs and alcohol do, and compulsive gambling can lead to financial ruin, loss of family and friends, homelessness and even suicide. Many people who struggle with gambling have difficulty admitting that they have a problem and seeking help is difficult, but treatment is available. Inpatient and residential treatment programs can offer round-the-clock support and teach the skills needed to break the cycle of addiction.
The word ‘gamble’ comes from the Latin verb guerra, meaning to fight or struggle. The earliest evidence of gambling can be found in China, where tiles were discovered dating back to 2,300 B.C. Those tiles were used to play a rudimentary game of chance and were thought to be a form of a lottery. Modern forms of gambling include playing poker, betting on sports events or purchasing lottery tickets. Some people gamble professionally and earn a living from their gambling activities.
In general, a person who gambles is called a ‘gambler’. The definition of gambling depends on state and national laws. For example, it is generally considered to be illegal to place a bet over the internet without a license. However, some states have exceptions and allow specific types of betting over the internet.
A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything that you cannot afford to lose. It is also important to know your limits and be honest with yourself about your own ability to gamble responsibly. If you have trouble controlling your gambling, try limiting how much money you spend on it and staying away from games that involve skill.
If you do find yourself gambling, make sure you stop after a certain amount of time and only use cash. You should also take steps to limit your access to money by removing credit cards, making someone else responsible for your finances or closing your online betting accounts. It is also helpful to seek help for underlying mood disorders that may trigger or make worse your gambling problems, such as depression or anxiety.
Pathological gambling was once considered a compulsion, but the psychiatric community changed its mind in the 1980s when it was included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM). This decision moved pathological gambling from impulse control to the category of addictive disorders. This reflects an understanding of the biology of addiction that has since revolutionized the field. For example, cognitive-behavior therapy can help people with a gambling problem confront their irrational beliefs that a streak of losses or a near miss on a slot machine are signs that the next spin will be a big win. This type of intervention has been shown to be very effective for treating gambling addiction. Moreover, it has been proven that behavioral therapies can be as effective as medications in treating this condition.