People gamble for a variety of reasons; to win money, socialise, escape from worries or stress and even for fun. However, gambling can become a problem when it is out of control and leads to debt and relationship problems. For some, it can also affect their mental health. If you are having difficulty controlling your spending, finding yourself lying to family and friends or feeling depressed or anxious, it may be time to seek help. Talk to a counsellor today – it’s free, confidential and available 24/7.
In general, gambling is considered to be an addictive behaviour and can lead to harm such as financial difficulties, emotional distress, depression, drug or alcohol use, family discord and suicide. Approximately two million people in the US are considered to have gambling addictions and around one million people experience severe problem gambling. People with gambling disorders are often misdiagnosed or under-treated due to lack of awareness and the stigma associated with seeking help.
Although gambling has long been used as a form of entertainment, it is now regarded as a medical disorder and has a high co-morbidity with substance abuse disorders. In 2013, pathological gambling was reclassified as an addictive disorder in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). In addition, the comorbidity between gambling disorder and other mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and bipolar, is well documented.
Gambling is a complex and highly profitable activity that can be very addictive. In order to understand how gambling can become a problem, it is important to look at the psychology behind gambling. In particular, a person’s beliefs and attitudes towards risk taking and loss are important factors in gambling behaviour. Having unrealistic expectations about their chances of winning and losing can influence the type of bets they place, whether they are on sports, poker or the pokies.
Research into gambling behaviour is complex, and longitudinal studies are vital to investigate the effects of gambling on individuals over time. These types of studies have a number of advantages over cross sectional research, including identifying factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation and helping to determine causality. However, longitudinal research is not without its challenges. The cost of a longitudinal study is a significant barrier, as are the issues of funding, team continuity and sample attrition. Furthermore, longitudinal data can confound aging and period effects such as whether a person’s interest in gambling has changed because they have reached the age of majority or because a casino has opened nearby.
Despite these barriers, there is increasing demand for more research into gambling and its impacts on the wider community. In particular, there is a growing need for more comprehensive measures of gambling-related harm. Currently, the majority of gambling-harm indicators are based on symptoms rather than on the underlying mechanisms that generate or exacerbate harm. Therefore, they are more likely to be used for diagnosis or screening purposes than as precise measures of harm.