Causes of Gambling Problems

Jun 25, 2023 Gambling


Gambling is risking something of value — such as money or other assets — on an event with some degree of chance, with the opportunity to win a prize ranging from a small amount of cash to a life-changing jackpot. There are many types of gambling, including lotteries, scratchcards, casino games such as roulette, baccarat and blackjack, sports betting, horse races and dog shows, and even online casinos. While most people gamble for fun, there are some who struggle with compulsive gambling, which can have a serious impact on their lives.

The causes of gambling problems are multifaceted. Some people develop a problem with gambling because of genetic factors, family history and peer influences (i.e., friends who gamble have a higher risk of developing a problem than those who do not). Other people develop a gambling problem because of underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, that are both triggers and exacerbators of problematic gambling. Often, the underlying mood disorder is compounded by stress, substance abuse or other negative lifestyle habits.

In addition, the risk of a gambling disorder is increased by certain environmental factors, such as living in an area where gambling is legal, and by having family members who have a gambling problem. Lastly, a person’s age and gender also increase his or her likelihood of developing a gambling problem. People who start gambling during childhood or adolescence are more likely to develop a problem, while women who begin gambling later in life tend to develop a gambling problem more quickly than men.

Some people gamble for the pleasure of winning, and some do so to relieve boredom or loneliness. In these cases, gambling can help to change one’s mood and to socialize with others. However, there are healthier and more effective ways to relieve unpleasant feelings — such as exercising, spending time with non-gambling friends, practicing relaxation techniques or taking up new hobbies.

Regardless of the motive, it is important to remember that gambling is not a reliable way to make money and should be treated as an expense rather than an investment. It is also helpful to set a gambling budget and not exceed it. If a person is experiencing a strong urge to gamble, he or she should call a friend for support or seek the help of a therapist.

The American Psychiatric Association now defines pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, placing it in the same category as other behavioral addictions like kleptomania and pyromania. It is hoped that this will lead to improved diagnosis and treatment of gambling disorders. Research using longitudinal designs is critical to identifying factors that moderate and exacerbate a person’s gambler’s behavior. Such studies will allow researchers to examine the long-term effects of gambling on individuals, families and communities. In addition, such studies will enable the development of evidence-based interventions for gambling disorders. Longitudinal research is particularly valuable because it allows for the collection of broad and deep data sets that can be used by a wide range of academic disciplines.

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