Gambling involves wagering something of value on an event with some element of randomness or chance. It may involve taking a chance on the lottery, placing bets on sports events or using pokie machines. While some people enjoy occasional flutters, others become addicted to gambling and have to seek treatment for it. Those with compulsive gambling can be at risk of debt, homelessness and broken relationships. They often hide their problem or lie about their behaviour, which is a common symptom of addiction.
Many factors contribute to the development of a gambling disorder, including personality and social factors, genetics, psychological distress and environmental stressors. Many people with a gambling disorder also suffer from other mental health problems such as anxiety, depression or bipolar disorders. They also tend to have a history of substance use issues. A person with a gambling disorder has a much higher chance of suicide than the general population.
The journal Gambling Studies covers a wide range of research and theory about gambling behaviour, both controlled and pathological. It draws on a broad range of disciplines such as psychiatry, psychology, sociology, economics, political science and criminology.
A growing body of research suggests that the onset, maintenance and extinguishment of gambling behavior can be understood as a response to an environmental cue. The journal also explores the ways in which gambling can be used as an escape or reward.
Whether it be playing the lotto, placing a bet on a horse race or spinning the reels on a casino game, all forms of gambling are designed to keep people engaged and spending money. This is a significant contributing factor to the development of gambling disorders, as well as other mental health problems.
In the past, the psychiatric community generally viewed pathological gambling as less of an impulse control disorder and more like other impulsive disorders such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). However, in the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), the American Psychiatric Association officially classified it as an addictive disorder.
Research has shown that gambling can be just as addictive as some illicit drugs such as cocaine and heroin. Some of the most severe cases of gambling addiction require a stay in an inpatient or residential treatment program, where individuals are given round-the-clock support to break their habit.
Recognising that you have a gambling problem is the first step towards recovery. You will likely need help from family and friends, as well as a therapist who specialises in gambling addiction. There are a number of treatments available for gambling addiction, such as cognitive-behaviour therapy and other forms of talk therapy. These therapies teach you to resist unwanted thoughts and habits, such as the belief that a string of losses or a near miss on a slot machine means an imminent win is just around the corner. They can also help you learn healthier ways of coping with unpleasant emotions and relieving boredom, such as exercise, spending time with non-gambling friends or practicing relaxation techniques.