Gambling Disorders

Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, but it can also cause problems. In the most severe cases, a person may develop an impulse control disorder called compulsive gambling or pathological gambling. People with this condition have a strong urge to gamble and can’t stop, even when they’re losing money or damaging their relationships.

Gambling includes all activities where a person stakes something of value on an event or game with the potential to win a prize. This includes traditional forms of gambling like casino games, sports betting and lottery games, but it can also include online gaming and video poker. People with gambling disorders often have difficulty controlling their spending and can even lose their homes, cars or jobs due to their behaviors.

There are several different ways to treat gambling disorders, but the most effective approaches involve psychotherapy and family therapy. These techniques can help a person identify and change unhealthy emotions and thoughts that lead to gambling. They can also teach a person healthier ways to deal with stress and other mood issues that contribute to their problem.

When a person gambles, their brain releases a chemical called dopamine, which makes them feel good. This reward system is a normal part of the human brain, but when a person gambles compulsively, they can experience over-abundant dopamine that interferes with their ability to think clearly and function normally. This can lead to problems with work, school and personal relationships.

The term “gambling disorder” was first used in 1980, and its development has been influenced by research findings that show gambling addiction is similar to other substance-related disorders in clinical expression, brain origin, comorbidity and treatment. This new understanding has led to the classification of gambling disorder as an impulse control disorder in recent editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, published by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM).

If you know someone who has a problem with gambling, it’s important to speak up. Try to encourage them to seek treatment, and offer support without judgment. You can also suggest they call a helpline or attend a self-help group for families, such as Gam-Anon. You can also help them find healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble or practicing relaxation techniques. Finally, you can help them seek treatment for any underlying mood disorders that may be contributing to their problem. Medications aren’t available to treat gambling disorder, but some medications can help with coexisting mood disorders. It’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible to get the best treatment. The earlier a person with gambling disorder gets help, the better their chances of overcoming their problem.