Most adults have placed a bet or two in their lifetime, and most do it without problems. However, a small subset of people develop pathological gambling (PG), described in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a persistent and recurrent maladaptive pattern of gambling behavior associated with distress or impairment.”
PG can lead to financial difficulties, including bankruptcy, credit card debt, homelessness, and relationship conflict. It is also known to cause serious health issues, such as depression and anxiety. People with these issues can be more at risk of suicide. If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.
It is difficult to understand why some people become addicted to gambling. There are many reasons, but the main ones include: a desire to win money, socialising, or escape from worries and stress. It can be easy to get carried away, especially in a twinkly casino filled with free cocktails and blaring music. This is why it’s important to gamble responsibly, only with disposable income and never with money that needs to be saved for bills or rent. It is also important to set money and time limits before gambling and to avoid chasing your losses, as this usually leads to bigger losses.
Gambling is a complex and psychologically stimulating activity, but it is not addictive in the same way as drugs or alcohol are. Most gambling establishments are not regulated, which means that they can take advantage of vulnerable customers and exploit them by offering them free drinks or other perks. It is therefore important to gamble only with money that you can afford to lose and to seek help if you are concerned that your gambling is getting out of control.
A number of different treatments are available for people with a gambling disorder. Psychodynamic therapy can be helpful for addressing unconscious processes that influence your gambling behaviour, and family and group therapy can improve communication and support in the home. There are also support groups for people with a gambling disorder, and these can be useful for moral and motivational support.
Longitudinal studies are becoming increasingly common in the field of gambling research. They allow researchers to examine changes over time and can identify the causes of these changes. However, these studies can be complicated by factors such as a person’s age and period of interest in gambling. Additionally, there are a number of challenges to conducting longitudinal studies in this area, such as funding and maintaining a research team over a long term.
While some medications are available to treat co-occurring conditions, only counseling can help someone overcome a gambling disorder. Learn to self-soothe unpleasant feelings in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby. It’s also worth avoiding high-risk activities like driving or walking while drunk, and only ever gamble with money that you can afford to lose.