Problem Gambling

Gambling involves putting something of value (like money) on an uncertain event that relies on chance. It can be anything from buying lottery tickets to playing a casino game. It can be done alone, with friends or in a group and can involve any amount of money. It may also involve betting on sports events, such as football games or horse races. Some people gamble for fun and excitement; others do it to make money.

Research shows that gambling activates the brain’s reward system in a similar way to drugs and alcohol. For some, this can result in problems. Problematic gambling can also cause changes in brain chemistry that affect an individual’s ability to control their behaviour and impulses.

Some individuals who gamble do so to escape boredom, depression, financial difficulties or grief. Other people think of gambling as a form of entertainment and the media portrays it as a glamorous, fashionable and exciting pastime. This can influence a person’s values and views of gambling activity and makes it harder for them to recognize that their behaviour is a problem.

It is important to balance gambling with other activities and to take time out from gambling if you feel that it is becoming a problem. Mental health professionals have developed criteria that help to identify when someone has a gambling disorder. These are included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, a handbook used by professional mental health workers.