Gambling involves putting something of value at risk in the hope of winning something of equal or greater value. People gamble for many reasons, including the thrill of winning money, socialising and escaping stress or worries. However, for some people gambling can become a problem and cause significant harm. People who gamble too much may lose control and begin to spend more than they can afford, borrowing money or even spending their wages or savings. For those with a problem, it is important to seek help and support.
The first step is to identify if gambling is a problem. Common symptoms include lying to loved ones, relying on others to fund your gambling, or continuing to gamble even when it negatively affects work, education and personal relationships. A gambling problem can also lead to financial difficulties, depression and anxiety.
There are many different types of treatment for a gambling disorder. Some treatments use cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps you resist the urge to gamble by teaching you healthier coping skills. Other treatments, such as psychodynamic therapy, examine how unconscious processes influence your behavior. Often, a combination of therapies is needed to treat a gambling disorder.
Another option is family therapy, which can be helpful if you have lost contact with your friends or are struggling to maintain healthy relationships at home as a result of your gambling behavior. Couples counseling can also be a useful tool for couples who have difficulty communicating or agreeing on financial decisions.
Some studies suggest that the most effective method of treating a gambling disorder is through individual and group therapy. Group therapy can help you build a supportive community and learn from the experiences of other people who have similar problems. Individual therapy can also be a powerful tool for recovery, and can include psychodynamic and insight-oriented therapy.
Longitudinal studies have been used to study the effects of gambling, but they can be difficult to mount for a number of reasons. For example, they require a large amount of funding for a multiyear commitment; there are problems with maintaining research team continuity over such a long period and with sample attrition; and longitudinal data confound aging and period effects (e.g., a person’s sudden interest in gambling could simply be due to reaching the age of majority or opening a casino nearby).
Some studies suggest that increased access to gambling increases the likelihood of a problem. However, other studies find no relationship between access to gambling and an increase in problem gambling. Research into the social impacts of gambling is limited, and most studies have focused on the costs associated with problem gambling. These costs are generally monetary, but they can also be nonmonetary. It is important to note that a cost-benefit analysis approach may not provide a complete picture of the impact of gambling because it neglects nonmonetary impacts. The definition of a cost-benefit analysis differs between researchers, but most commonly, it includes the following components: