Whether it’s buying a lotto ticket, betting on horses or sports events, playing the pokies or a video game, gambling is a risky business. But many people don’t realize that there are other dangers to gambling beyond losing money. For instance, gambling is associated with depression, substance abuse, and anxiety. It’s also been linked to suicidal thoughts and behaviour. If you’re concerned about your mental health, it’s important to speak to a specialist. The biggest step to getting help is realizing that you have a problem. If you or someone you care about is struggling with a gambling addiction, it’s best to seek treatment before the problem escalates.
Gambling is any game of chance that involves placing something of value at stake for the possibility of winning a prize. Games of chance can range from a penny on the slots to multimillion-dollar jackpots in casinos. The defining feature of all gambling is the element of risk. In a casino, this is often measured in terms of the amount of money put at risk. In other cases, the risk is measured in a different way: the likelihood of winning, which can be assessed by the odds of any given game.
Most people gamble because they want to win money. But there are other motives: to socialize, to change moods, to relieve stress or to escape problems or unpleasant feelings. Some people are more prone to gambling problems than others. Some have a family history of gambling problems, while others may suffer from mood disorders like depression or anxiety. The financial crisis of 2008 also increased the number of people seeking gambling addiction treatment.
The psychiatric community previously considered pathological gambling to be a form of kleptomania or pyromania, an impulse control disorder. However, in the latest edition of its diagnostic manual, the APA moved pathological gambling to the chapter on addictions.
Longitudinal studies of gambling use are becoming more common, but there are challenges to conducting them, including a large investment of time and money, sample attrition and the difficulty of identifying causal factors. Despite these challenges, longitudinal data can help identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation and allow researchers to infer causality.
Cognitive behavioural therapy can be used to treat gambling addiction. It can address beliefs that lead to gambling, such as believing you are more likely to win than you really are or that certain rituals bring luck. It can also help a person change their behaviour, such as by setting limits on when and how much they will gamble. Managing money is an important part of this, but it can be challenging for those who struggle with gambling to do so on their own. Family and friends can provide support, but it is crucial that they set boundaries in managing the finances and do not micromanage the person with the gambling addiction. In addition, it is important to get help for any underlying mood disorders that can trigger and make worse a gambling problem.