Gambling is an activity that involves wagering something of value on the outcome of a random event. It is a common recreational and entertainment activity, and a significant global commercial activity. People place bets on a wide variety of events, including sports, horse races, lottery games and other casino-style activities. It is also possible to place bets on virtual or computer-generated events. Gambling can be done alone or with friends. Socializing with other gamblers is a popular feature of gambling, with many casinos providing spaces for groups to meet and socialize.
While the majority of gambling is purely recreational, some people become addicted to it. These people may experience psychological, emotional, and social problems, as well as financial difficulties. They may also attempt to cover up or hide their gambling activities. Those with a problem may lie to family members or therapists about the extent of their involvement, and some may even engage in illegal acts, such as theft, forgery, or embezzlement to fund gambling activities. Some individuals with a gambling addiction have lost their jobs, educational or career opportunities, or relationships because of their gambling habits.
The main causes of gambling problems include: a. an overly positive perception of the likelihood of winning (positive reinforcement), b. a tendency to lose control when gambling (impulsivity), c. a belief that gambling can alleviate negative emotions (depression, anxiety, guilt), d. a desire to win back money previously lost in gambling (chasing losses), and e. a lack of control in gambling (denial, lying) (American Psychiatric Association 2000).
There are several approaches to studying gambling problems, but longitudinal studies have the potential to provide the most useful and comprehensive data. These studies are designed to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling behavior over time and allow for the inference of causality. However, longitudinal research is relatively new in the field of gambling, and a number of practical and logistical barriers must be overcome to enable more frequent, sophisticated, and theory-based longitudinal studies to be conducted.
Some of the most visible impacts of gambling are monetary, but these are often overlooked by researchers. Social and community/society level impacts, which involve those who are not the gamblers themselves, have received less attention. The main challenge to researching these impacts is that they are difficult to quantify.
If you are struggling with a gambling addiction, it is important to reach out for help. Talking to a therapist can be an effective way to address your issues and develop healthy coping mechanisms. The first step is acknowledging that you have a problem, which can be a tough thing to do, especially if you’ve suffered financial hardship or strained your relationships due to gambling. You can also seek support from a peer-support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which offers a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous. A therapist can help you identify and work through your underlying beliefs about gambling, which may be contributing to your addiction.