Gambling is an activity in which you place money on the outcome of an event involving chance. You can do this by betting on sports events, playing casino games or even buying scratchcards. If you guess correctly, you win the money you bet with. It is human nature to desire taking risks and the uncertain outcome of gambling makes it appealing.
However, gambling is not always a positive thing. Harmful gambling can have devastating effects on your health, relationships, work performance and social life. It can also leave you in serious debt and lead to homelessness. It can affect your mental and physical wellbeing, harm family, friends and colleagues and lead to depression. You can get help with a gambling problem at StepChange, the UK’s free and confidential debt charity.
The earliest evidence of gambling dates back to around 2,300 B.C when tiles were found in China which appeared to be used for a rudimentary game of chance. Historically, many people have been against gambling because of the risk of addiction and moral issues. But in recent years, the psychiatric community has begun to view pathological gambling as a form of impulse control disorder and moved it into the addictions chapter of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).
Like other addictive behaviors, such as drug abuse or kleptomania, the cause of harmful gambling is likely a combination of environmental and biological factors. It is thought that certain genes may predispose you to gamble compulsively and that the environment in which you live and how regulated it is can play a role too. The release of dopamine during gambling activates brain areas similar to those affected by drug use and is thought to trigger the same addictive behaviour.