Gambling is an activity in which a person stakes or risks something of value on the outcome of a contest of chance or on a future contingent event not under his control or influence, upon an agreement or understanding that he or another will receive something of value in the event of a certain result (American Psychiatric Association 2000). People can gamble at casinos, lotteries, or private settings. It is a common recreational activity, and in some countries is legal and regulated.
Some people who gamble do so for social reasons, to pass the time, or because they enjoy thinking about what they would do if they won a jackpot. Others, however, are addicted to gambling and may be unable to stop despite serious financial or personal consequences. There are also psychological reasons why someone might continue to gamble, for example to relieve stress or anxiety. These reasons do not excuse the behaviour and it is important to seek help if you are worried about someone else’s addiction.
Research into gambling is conducted in a variety of ways, including surveys, experimental studies and longitudinal studies. Longitudinal studies are particularly useful, as they provide more information about the underlying causes of gambling problems. They allow researchers to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation, as well as provide causal inferences. Moreover, they are a cost-efficient way to conduct a large number of studies in a relatively short period of time.
Among the most significant challenges for those recovering from gambling addiction is maintaining recovery, which can be difficult, especially in the face of constant temptation. This is a major reason why it is vital to surround yourself with supportive people, avoid tempting environments and websites and give up control of your finances until you have established a new pattern of behaviour. In addition, psychological treatments can help you to deal with the urges to gamble and address any co-occurring mental health conditions you may have.
There are no FDA-approved medications to treat gambling disorders, but psychotherapy can be very effective in reducing compulsive gambling. Cognitive-behavior therapy, for example, helps a person to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. It can also be helpful in addressing irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a string of losses indicates an imminent win. Other psychological treatments include mindfulness meditation, rational emotive behavior therapy and interpersonal therapies. There are also support groups and residential treatment facilities for those struggling with gambling addiction, which can offer round-the-clock care and monitoring. Nonetheless, only the person who is affected by a gambling disorder can decide whether to seek help. In most cases, the best option is to enter a treatment program.