Gambling Disorder

Gambling is an activity where you exchange money for goods or services with a possibility of winning or losing. Most people gamble without problems and most forms of gambling have low addictive potential, but some people develop a disorder that is listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fifth Edition). Gambling can be very stressful, especially when the losses exceed the gains. This can trigger a dopamine response similar to that of taking drugs, leading to a high and low cycle. When you’re on a low, the urge to gamble increases because the brain thinks that this behaviour will reduce your stress.

People with this disorder often feel secretive about their gambling and lie to those around them. They may also increase their gambling in the hope of winning back what they’ve lost – this is known as cognitive distortion and can lead to an ever-increasing spiral of debt and despair.

This can have a profound impact on a person’s life. Debts build up, credit cards are maxed out and wages or salaries go unpaid – sometimes even resulting in criminal activity such as stealing or fraud. In extreme cases, this can lead to thoughts of suicide. It is therefore important to seek support as soon as possible. Getting help can help reduce the risk of self harm and improve relationships. Increasing social activities, enhancing coping and communication skills, improving family dynamics and joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous can all make a huge difference.