Whether at a casino, horse race track or online, gambling is all about risk. But for some, the thrill of rolling the dice or staking money on a horse race can turn into an addiction that strains relationships and interferes with work and life. The good news is that there are ways to help someone with a gambling problem. In fact, many people with this disorder are successfully treated and have recovered.
While there are a variety of factors that can contribute to problematic gambling, researchers have identified four major reasons why people gamble. The first is the social aspect, which can include betting with friends or thinking about what they would do if they won a jackpot. People also gamble to escape from stress or to feel in control when things are out of their hands. Finally, some people may gamble because they want to get the rush of winning, even if the odds are not in their favor.
The underlying reason for this phenomenon is that gambling is not only a way to make money, but it’s also an addictive activity. It’s hard to resist the temptation when there’s so much excitement and potential reward. In addition, the brain is stimulated by gambling and releases dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that makes you think you’re on top of your game.
Some studies have found that there are genetic factors that can contribute to gambling problems. For example, some individuals have underactive brain reward systems that can lead to impulsivity and inability to weigh risk. Other research has shown that people with mental health disorders, such as anxiety or depression, are more at risk for developing a gambling problem.
The biggest step toward overcoming a gambling addiction is admitting that you have one. This can take tremendous strength, especially if you have lost large sums of money or if your gambling habit has strained or broken your relationships. Once you’ve made this commitment, you can begin addressing the root causes of your problem with therapy and treatment.
A therapist can help you learn to control your impulses and develop strategies to cope with stress and anxiety. Psychodynamic therapy, for instance, can help you understand how unconscious processes can influence your gambling behavior. Family therapy is another option, and it can help you educate your loved ones about the disorder and create a healthier home environment. You can also join a support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows the model of Alcoholics Anonymous. The support and guidance you’ll receive from others who are in the same boat can be invaluable.