Understanding Gambling Disorders


Gambling involves risking money or other material valuables on something with an uncertain outcome. It can include games of chance that have no skill involved like the roll of a dice or the spin of a roulette wheel, and activities that involve a degree of skill like poker, horse racing and sports betting. People who gamble often have different reasons for doing so. For some, gambling is an enjoyable way to socialise with friends and colleagues, while for others it provides an escape from boredom or emotional distress. Unfortunately, when someone’s gambling gets out of control it can harm their health, cause debt and even lead to homelessness.

Historically, gambling was seen as immoral and illegal, with those who gambled earning a bad reputation. Today, however, the understanding of gambling disorders has shifted dramatically. Problem gamblers are no longer viewed as lazy or morally weak, and instead are recognised as having psychological problems that have led to destructive behaviour.

Many people play gambling games in a social context, such as card games for small amounts of money with friends or family members, or buying lottery tickets with co-workers. These types of activities are considered ‘social gambling’ and can be fun, but they should not be seen as a form of real money gambling. Professional gamblers, on the other hand, are known as professional gamblers for a reason: they make their living through gambling, and they do it very well.

The appeal of gambling is that it provides a high level of excitement and reward, but the odds are always against you. For some, this is enough to keep them coming back for more. However, for individuals who develop a gambling disorder, the brain changes and they can no longer judge whether or not an activity is risky.

When an individual wins, the brain produces a burst of dopamine. This is a useful learning mechanism if you’re shooting basketballs into a net and get closer each time, but it can become dangerous when the thrill of the game becomes more important than the long term consequences.

This dopamine response can also influence the perception of probability. People often overestimate the probability that they will win a certain game because their minds can produce examples of when it has happened in the past. This is known as the gambler’s fallacy and it means that people think they are due a win or will be able to recoup their losses by continuing to play.

Trying to get your money back after a loss is also referred to as chasing your losses. This is the opposite of what you should be doing, as your chances of winning are no higher after a loss than before. In addition, chasing your losses will only cause you to lose more money in the long run. For this reason, it’s important to stop gambling as soon as you start thinking about chasing your losses.