Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property or other valuables) for a chance to win a prize. It’s a popular pastime that can be found in many places, including casinos, lotteries, and online. For some people, gambling is an enjoyable way to spend time and meet friends, but for others it can be a serious addiction that leads to financial and personal problems.
The main causes of gambling problems include:
Having poor mental health, especially depression or other mood disorders, is also linked to problem gambling. These disorders can trigger or make worse gambling behavior, and it’s important to get treatment for them. Taking medication or going to psychotherapy are both ways to help someone with mental health issues and gambling problems. Psychotherapy is a type of counseling that aims to change unhealthy emotions and thoughts and improve a person’s life skills. It’s usually done with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker.
It’s estimated that the amount of money legally wagered on gambles worldwide is more than $10 trillion per year. This figure doesn’t include illegal wagers, which are estimated to be much higher.
While most adults and adolescents gamble without developing any problems, a small percentage develop a gambling disorder, described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th Edition) as persistent, compulsive gambling that causes significant distress or impairment. Gambling is a common addiction that can affect any age, gender or socioeconomic background. It can be very difficult to stop and is often accompanied by other mood disorders such as depression, anxiety or stress.
In addition to the obvious physical harm, gambling can lead to legal and family problems, including divorce. It can also cause a person to be unemployed and homeless. It can even put their home or other assets at risk of foreclosure.
Researchers are working to better understand what makes someone more likely to develop a gambling disorder, and how to prevent it. One approach is to use longitudinal designs that follow a group of participants over time. This allows researchers to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation and to infer causal relationships.
Those with financial or emotional problems are most at risk of gambling addiction. To avoid gambling, people should limit their access to credit cards and other forms of debt, close their online betting accounts and keep only a small amount of cash on them. It’s also helpful to seek support from family, friends and self-help groups for families, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Getting plenty of exercise and other healthy activities can help people control their urges to gamble. Finally, avoiding alcohol and drugs can help too. Inpatient and residential treatment and rehab programs are available for those with severe gambling disorders who can’t stop gambling on their own. These programs provide round-the-clock support and treatment. They can be found in the United States, Australia, Canada, Europe, New Zealand and the Middle East.