Gambling is when you risk something of value to predict the outcome of a game involving chance, such as a football match or a scratchcard. If you win, you get a prize. But if you lose, you lose money. Some people find gambling very addictive, and it can lead to serious financial problems.
Some people gamble for fun, only using money they can afford to lose. Others are much more serious, and their addiction to gambling can be dangerous. It can affect their personal, family and professional lives. Many people who suffer from gambling disorder need treatment. There are several types of therapy available, but it’s important to choose the right one for you.
A person with gambling disorder will have a difficult time stopping or controlling their gambling behavior. They may spend more money than they have, or lie to family members and friends about their gambling. They may also steal or embezzle funds to finance their habit. They will probably feel guilt, anxiety or depression when they are unable to stop gambling. They will try to escape their thoughts by gambling, and may even become suicidal if they cannot control their gambling.
The term pathological gambling (PG) covers a range of behaviors, from those that are mildly problematic to those that meet the criteria for a diagnosis of PG in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV). It is believed that 0.4-1.6% of Americans meet the DSM-IV definition of PG. PG tends to run in families, and it often begins in adolescence or young adulthood. Men are more likely to develop PG than women, and they are more likely to start gambling at a younger age.
Research on adolescent and adult PG has been limited, partly because it is illegal in most states. However, longitudinal studies provide valuable information about the factors that contribute to and maintain gambling behavior. Compared to cross-sectional studies, longitudinal designs are more cost-efficient and provide more precise evidence about causality.
Psychiatric researchers have found that a variety of factors cause or contribute to a person’s PG, including genetics, environment, and social context. In addition, a person who gambles is at increased risk for drug abuse and for other disorders involving impulsivity and reward processing.
The most effective treatments for PG include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. Family therapy is another option. Some research suggests that it is helpful to identify the role of the therapist’s conceptualizations of pathology and etiology in his or her approach to treating PG. Despite these advances, there is still much work to be done. Longitudinal studies are critical for identifying factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation, as well as for measuring the effects of legalized gambling on individuals, families and communities. They can help to determine the effectiveness of current treatments and identify new ones. Research needs to be broad-based, include a variety of disciplines and use longitudinal data to establish causality.