Whether it’s buying lotto tickets, betting on horse races or using the pokies, many people gamble at some point in their lives. But gambling can be an addictive activity, and when it’s not handled properly, it can lead to serious financial and emotional harm. In fact, four in five Americans say they’ve gambled at least once in their lives.
A large body of research has investigated the effects of gambling on individuals, families, and communities, including studies that have tracked individual’s behavior over time. The experimental work has been extensive and varied, but there are certain themes that emerge from this literature.
In general, the more you gamble, the more likely you are to become addicted. This is largely because of the way the brain’s reward system responds to gambling, and this response can be extremely powerful and long-lasting. But it’s not the only factor at play. Other contributing factors include family and peer pressure, age, and sex. It’s more common for men to develop a gambling problem, and compulsive gambling can start as early as childhood or the teenage years.
Some researchers have also focused on the influence of social norms on gambling behavior. This is based on the idea that social norms influence what people think they should do in particular situations, even if that conflict with their prior beliefs or values. So, for example, if you are raised to believe that honesty is important, but you find yourself lying about how much you’ve won or lost while gambling, this could be a sign that you have a gambling disorder.
One of the most promising areas of study is longitudinal work. This type of study follows a group of people over time, and allows researchers to look at how varying factors affect the development and maintenance of problematic gambling behaviors. This type of study can also be used to compare different groups, such as those who have a gambling disorder and those who don’t.
Another area of study involves examining how various therapies can help people manage their gambling addiction. For example, cognitive-behavior therapy is often effective at helping people overcome harmful thought patterns that may be fueling their gambling addiction. It can also be helpful to learn healthier ways of dealing with unpleasant feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. Finally, it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor about any co-occurring psychiatric disorders that you might have, because they can sometimes make gambling behaviors worse. Medications can be used to treat conditions like depression and bipolar disorder, and can improve your ability to regulate your gambling behaviours. This can be especially beneficial if you’re struggling to quit gambling completely on your own. If you’re concerned that your gambling is out of control, get in touch with a counsellor today. It’s free and confidential. You can also find a local support group through Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.