Gambling involves betting something of value on an uncertain event with the intention of winning something else of value. It is usually done in a structured environment such as a casino, but can also be performed at home or by phone. It is a common form of entertainment and can provide a sense of excitement and socialization. However, some people become addicted to gambling. This can lead to financial, social and family problems. In addition, gambling can have negative psychological effects.
The act of gambling is a complex phenomenon that is the result of numerous influences, including genetics, temperament, and coexisting mental health conditions. It is believed that a person develops a pathological gambling (PG) diagnosis when they experience persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behavior. Typically, a person who meets the criteria for PG develops symptoms during adolescence or young adulthood. Males appear to develop PG more quickly than females and begin gambling at a younger age. They are more likely to experience a PG diagnosis in relation to strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling such as poker, blackjack and video games, but less likely to experience a PG diagnosis in connection with nonstrategic or less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling such as slot machines or bingo.
It is important to recognize and identify the symptoms of a gambling disorder, so you can seek treatment for it. Some of the signs include: downplaying or lying to loved ones about your gambling behaviors; hiding or stealing money to fund your gambling activities; continuing to gamble even when it negatively impacts your finances, work, education or personal relationships; relying on others to fund your gambling or to replace money you’ve lost from gambling; engaging in illegal acts such as forgery, fraud or theft to finance your gambling; and more.
Symptoms of a gambling problem may be exacerbated by underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Those suffering from these issues may find it difficult to break the habit of gambling, leading to further declines in their emotional and mental well-being.
Longitudinal studies allow researchers to measure the impact of gambling on an individual over a period of years, and identify which factors moderate or exacerbate gambling participation. These types of studies are important to understanding the etiology of gambling disorders and developing effective interventions. Unfortunately, longitudinal studies are not as common in the field of gambling research compared to other types of psychiatric and medical research due to several challenges, such as funding, sample attrition, and the danger that repeated testing may influence a person’s reported gambling habits. However, as access to gambling continues to expand and more people experience a greater variety of gambling opportunities, the need for longitudinal research in this area becomes increasingly apparent.