Gambling involves betting something of value on a random event with the hope of gaining something in return. It may be as simple as placing a bet on the outcome of a game, or it can be more complicated such as wagering in a card game or betting with friends. There are many different types of gambling games, including online, land-based and mobile phone gambling. People with gambling disorders can also experience difficulties at work and in their personal relationships. Some of the most common signs of gambling disorder are hiding or lying to loved ones about their gambling activities, using credit cards or money to fund their addiction, and avoiding social events because of their gambling habits.
Research in gambling addiction has shifted dramatically over the last 10 years. Until recently, the psychiatric community viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addictive behavior, comparable to other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania (fire-starting). But now it is widely agreed that gamblers can become addicted to gambling in the same way as they can to drugs. Moreover, they can have many of the same physical and psychological symptoms as substance addicts.
Several treatment methods are available for people with gambling disorders. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a popular approach, which helps people change their negative thinking patterns and behaviors. Psychodynamic therapy, which focuses on unconscious processes that can affect your behavior, is another option. Group and family therapy can also be helpful, especially if you’ve lost contact with your friends and family as a result of your gambling disorder.
For some people with gambling disorders, the first step in recovery is to seek professional help. Many states have gambling support services and there are also national hotlines for those with gambling problems. In addition, there are many inpatient and residential treatment programs that offer specialized treatment for gambling addictions.
Longitudinal studies of gambling are useful for understanding the underlying mechanisms of gambling behavior. These studies can provide important insights on the development of gambling disorders, and help identify risk factors. However, longitudinal studies of gambling are challenging to conduct because of financial and logistical barriers. For example, it can be expensive to collect data from a large number of individuals over a long period of time; maintaining continuity of the research team and reducing sample attrition can be difficult; and longitudinal data confound aging and period effects.
Gambling can be a socially acceptable and fun activity for some, but it can lead to serious consequences for others. If you or a loved one is struggling with gambling problems, don’t wait to get help. Seek support from a loved one, attend a meeting of Gamblers Anonymous or other support groups, or call a hotline. There are also several inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs that can help you overcome your gambling disorder and live a happier, healthier life. If you’re unable to afford treatment, ask your doctor about funding options.