Is Gambling an Addiction?

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (including money or possessions) on an event whose outcome depends on chance. It includes betting on sports, horse races, games of skill like poker or blackjack, scratch cards, lottery tickets and more. Gambling is considered an addiction when it leads to recurring problems and deteriorates the gambler’s life, including strained or broken relationships, financial disaster, and legal trouble.

Gamblers’ brains release dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that can lead to feelings of excitement and reward. However, the brain’s pleasure sensors can be hijacked by gambling habits, causing people to lose control. They may even start chasing their losses, thinking they’re due for a big win and that they can make up for lost money. This is known as the “gambler’s fallacy.”

Developing a problem with gambling can affect anyone, regardless of their economic status, social or cultural background, or level of education. However, children and adolescents are at a higher risk for becoming problem gamblers than adults.

If you suspect you have a gambling problem, you can take steps to stop it by removing yourself from any situation that could lead to gambling. You can also learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways by exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying new hobbies. Finally, you can seek treatment or rehab for your gambling addiction. These programs can include outpatient or inpatient care, where you’ll be able to get round-the-clock support.