Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on horses or sports events, or playing the pokies, gambling is something that most of us engage in at some point. But for some people it can become a serious problem. Fortunately, there are effective treatments for the disorder.
Longitudinal studies in gambling are a relatively new field of research. Such studies allow investigators to follow individuals over a longer period of time and examine how various variables influence gambling behavior. Such studies also help to address questions of causality (e.g., does a person’s change in gambling behavior result from a specific event, or is it the result of a particular environment or life situation).
Research has shown that there are significant differences between those who gamble compulsively and those who don’t. Those with the disorder show a persistent, uncontrollable desire to gamble and experience a range of negative consequences. Gambling problems can be severe and interfere with a person’s relationships, work, and home life. Those with the disorder are at risk for developing other serious mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety.
If you know someone who is struggling with a gambling addiction, be aware of the warning signs and encourage them to seek help. You can also support them by taking over family finances and setting spending limits, and encouraging them to participate in recovery programs that teach coping skills. The first step is admitting that there is a problem.