Gambling Disorders – What Are They and How Do They Affect You?

The way we understand gambling and the people who gamble has changed a lot over the years. It’s no longer a form of entertainment or an acceptable way to relieve boredom, it is now seen as a real and serious problem. It is considered a mental disorder and the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) even includes it among the list of substance-related and addictive disorders.

Several factors contribute to the development of pathological gambling. Some of these include genetic or psychological predisposition, environmental influences and the fact that some individuals are prone to impulsive behaviour. In addition, excessive gambling can lead to dramatic changes in the brain’s chemical messages and can trigger a series of negative events such as financial ruin, legal issues and health problems.

Many people start gambling as a social activity with friends or family, enjoying the social interaction and the excitement of winning money. Others seek gambling as a way to escape from their life’s problems and stresses. They might be frustrated, depressed, grieving or just wanting to forget about their worries and troubles.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on a random event with the intent of winning something else of value, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can be done on the internet, in casinos, at home or at horse races. The chances of winning don’t increase or decrease based on previous losses or wins, but it is still a risky activity.

It is estimated that 2.5 million adults (1%) meet the criteria for a gambling disorder, and it affects people of every race and religion, age and education level. It can happen to anyone, in small towns or large cities, and it is equally likely to affect wealthy people as those living on a shoestring budget.

The most common reason for a person to develop a gambling problem is because of the pleasure they get from the adrenaline rush and the dopamine high that they experience when they win money. However, most people don’t realise that there is also a significant amount of risk involved. This is particularly true for those who place their bets on a regular basis.

Another factor that contributes to gambling problems is the tendency of people to overestimate the probability of something happening because they can think of immediate examples of it happening. This is known as the gambler’s fallacy.

The best way to minimise the risks is by only gambling with money that you can afford to lose. Never gamble with money that you need to pay your bills or rent, and it is a good idea to allocate a fixed amount of disposable income to gambling each week. This helps keep your spending under control and makes it harder to lose track of your finances. You should also try to avoid making impulse decisions while gambling, as this can lead to a lot of bad choices.