Gambling Disorders

Gambling Disorders

Gambling is an activity in which people risk money or something else of value on the outcome of a game of chance. It can involve playing games like scratchcards or fruit machines, betting on sports events such as horse races or football matches, or placing private bets with friends. People can become addicted to gambling. Some people find it hard to recognise when their gambling is causing problems and may try to hide the problem from family or friends. They may also hide evidence of their gambling activity such as credit cards or online accounts. Gambling can be an expensive pastime and if it becomes an addiction, it can lead to debt and other financial difficulties.

Many different factors are involved in developing a gambling disorder, including brain chemistry, environmental and psychological influences, and the use of drugs or alcohol. Some people may use gambling as a way of distracting themselves from other problems, or as a way to relieve stress, anxiety or depression. Some people are at high risk of developing a gambling disorder because they have a genetic predisposition to gamble, or because their family members have a history of gambling problems.

Research into the development of gambling disorders requires large cohort studies with detailed demographic and medical data. The Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC) has been collecting rich longitudinal information since 1991, and includes a wealth of information on both parents and children. It is well suited to investigating the complexities of gambling in late adolescence and early adulthood.

In the ALSPAC study, the proportion of people who reported gambling regularly increased from 17 to 20 years and then fell at 24 years. The increase was particularly marked in males. The association with regular gambling was consistent with other literature, showing significant correlations with low IQ and external locus of control scores. A high sensation seeking score was also associated with gambling behaviour.

Although the number of people with gambling disorders is relatively small, the problem can have serious consequences for those who are affected. There are a range of services that offer support, assistance and counselling for people who are concerned about their own gambling or the gambling habits of others. It is important to seek help as soon as possible. In addition, it is essential to treat underlying mood disorders such as depression and anxiety, which can make gambling problems worse. People should also avoid gambling when they are depressed or upset, as this can lead to impulsive decisions that are more likely to result in loss. Finally, it is important to consider the financial costs of gambling and to set limits on how much time and money one is willing to spend on gambling. These measures can include setting a time limit, avoiding borrowing to fund gambling activities, closing down online betting accounts and not using credit cards to fund gambling. It is also important to think about whether gambling is replacing other activities that could be beneficial to mental health, such as socialising with friends and hobbies.