Gambling involves risking money in the hope of winning more. Some people develop a gambling problem and are considered pathological gamblers (PG). PG symptoms include: a craving to gamble, difficulty controlling or stopping the behavior, lying about how much money is lost, and financial problems, such as credit card debts. PG can cause distress, anxiety, depression, and feelings of helplessness. PG may also trigger suicidal thoughts or actions.
Research is needed to improve understanding of the etiology of gambling disorder and its treatment. However, there are many barriers to longitudinal studies of gambling behaviors and the onset and maintenance of PG. For example, a longitudinal study requires massive funding and multiyear commitments. It is also difficult to maintain team continuity over long periods of time and track participant progress. Longitudinal data are prone to errors caused by sample attrition, age effects, and period effects.
Psychiatric treatment for gambling addiction can be effective. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) teaches individuals to challenge negative and obsessive thoughts and behaviors. Specifically, CBT helps people learn to confront irrational beliefs such as the belief that certain rituals or routines increase their chances of winning.
A key to overcoming a gambling problem is building a strong support network. Having family and friends that can offer moral support and help set limits in managing spending is crucial. Getting involved in hobbies and activities that promote health and wellbeing can also help replace the desire to gamble. For example, joining a book or sports club or volunteering can provide new sources of entertainment and social interaction. You could also consider finding a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous.