Understanding Compulsive Gambling


Gambling involves placing an investment (money or material valuables) on a random event that has an uncertain outcome, such as a roll of dice, a spin of a roulette wheel, or the result of a horse race. Historically, gambling has been considered immoral and illegal, and people who gamble have had a bad reputation. However, many individuals enjoy gambling and do so responsibly. This activity also provides benefits to society, including stimulating economic growth, providing entertainment, and fostering cognitive skills.

When people engage in gambling, their brains release dopamine, a feel-good neurotransmitter that is associated with feelings of excitement and pleasure. The sensation is most intense when winning, but it can occur even when losing. For some individuals, this feeling is so strong that they become addicted to gambling.

In recent years, understanding of compulsive gambling has undergone a significant change. Previously, researchers viewed problem gamblers as suffering from substance use disorders. Today, we understand that they suffer from psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, or stress, that can trigger gambling behavior and make it worse.

People who engage in gambling often do so as a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions or relieve boredom. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to do so, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. People who struggle with underlying mood disorders should seek help. They may also benefit from learning to control their gambling behavior through legal regulations or by personally imposing limits.