Gambling is risking something of value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance with the intention of winning something else of value. It includes activities such as slot machines, bingo, buying lottery or scratch tickets, office pools, and betting on sports events. Problem gambling often involves lying to family members, therapists, or others in order to conceal the extent of involvement; spending more than one can afford; and jeopardizing or losing a job, education, or relationship because of gambling. In addition, problem gamblers may engage in illegal acts such as theft and embezzlement to finance gambling. The amount of money legally wagered on lotteries and other games worldwide is estimated to be $10 trillion annually (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
In healthy gambling, the thrill of the game is what motivates people. This feeling is produced by the brain’s reward system when a player wins, which helps them learn and improve over time. Problem gambling hijacks this learning mechanism to make it difficult for a person to stop playing even when they are losing.
For some people, gambling is about social interaction or entertainment. It might be about daydreaming about what they would do if they won the jackpot, or it might be about getting that rush or “high”. If your loved one is struggling with gambling addiction, consider seeking professional help. Counseling can help them understand the root causes of their behavior and teach them skills to prevent future problems. Family therapy, marriage, career and credit counseling can help heal the damage caused to their relationships and finances by problem gambling.