Although most adults and adolescents in the United States have placed some type of bet, a significant subset go on to develop pathological gambling, defined in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent recurrent pattern of gambling behavior that causes substantial distress or impairment. Ten years ago, it was controversial to suggest that a person could become hooked on a habit like gambling the way she might get hooked on a drug. Now most experts agree that for some people, gambling can be a real addiction.
Gambling is the stake of something of value (money, possessions, etc.) on an event that has the potential to produce a prize win. It’s a risky activity because, unless you have a good strategy, the outcome is uncertain. This is why it’s important to understand how gambling works and factors that can provoke problematic gambling.
People gamble for a variety of reasons, including to relieve stress, take their mind off other problems and socialize with friends. In addition, gambling triggers a chemical response in the brain that produces feelings of euphoria and excitement. However, it’s not just the prospect of winning that drives people to gamble; in fact, a study published in the journal International Gambling Studies found that people also engage in this behavior for other, less obvious reasons, such as mood change and the desire to experience an adrenaline rush.
Many people who struggle with gambling seek help. However, it’s often hard for those who suffer from problem gambling to admit that they have a problem. They may hide their gambling activities or even lie to family and friends about how much time they spend gambling. They might also avoid spending money on things they need, such as food or housing, in order to fund their casino activities.
It’s possible to overcome a gambling addiction with help from trained professionals. Psychotherapy is a term that refers to a wide range of treatment techniques, including talk therapy and cognitive-behavioral therapy. These methods teach you to change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. Psychotherapy can also help you address other psychological issues that might be contributing to your gambling problem.
Despite the fact that most people can find gambling in casinos, it’s not uncommon for gambling to take place in more mundane locations, such as gas stations, church halls and sporting events. It’s also easy to find advertising for gambling in virtually any media outlet, and children are exposed to these ads at a young age.
The most effective research on gambling disorders uses longitudinal design, which allows researchers to track changes in a person’s gambling participation over a long period of time. However, longitudinal studies are expensive and challenging to mount, primarily because of the difficulty of maintaining a research team over a multiyear period. Furthermore, longitudinal data confound aging and period effects, making it difficult to determine causality. Nonetheless, it’s essential to use this approach in order to conduct accurate and comprehensive studies on the occurrence of gambling disorders.