Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, whether they have a flutter on the lottery, place bets on sports events or use the pokies at their local pub. But it’s important to remember that gambling is an activity with a very real chance of losing money. People who gamble can also experience mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, which are often linked to harmful gambling.
If you have a gambling problem, it’s important to seek help. The first step is to strengthen your support network by reaching out to friends and family, and joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also get advice on financial issues by speaking to a debt adviser at StepChange, or seeking help from your local authority’s gambling services department. You can also postpone gambling to allow the urge to pass or weaken by distracting yourself, exercising or taking up a hobby.
You can also set a time limit for yourself when you play, and only bet what you can afford to lose. This will prevent you from gambling for longer than you intended, and will make it easier to walk away when the urge arises. You can also take steps to protect your money, such as closing online betting accounts and only keeping a small amount of cash in your wallet. You can also put someone else in charge of your money, or have the bank make automatic payments on your behalf.
Some people are more vulnerable to developing a gambling disorder, including those with lower incomes who have more to lose and young people, who may start gambling before they have fully matured. Other risk factors include mood disorders such as depression, which is often associated with pathological gambling, and alcohol or drug abuse, both of which can lead to gambling problems or make them worse.
When it comes to treating gambling disorders, research is still very limited. However, longitudinal studies – which follow the same participants over a long period of time – can offer valuable insights into the causes of gambling problems and help identify the most effective interventions. However, these types of studies can be difficult to undertake, and there are some practical barriers that must be overcome (e.g., the massive funding needed for a multiyear commitment, the difficulty of maintaining research team continuity, and the potential for sample attrition). Despite these challenges, longitudinal gambling studies are becoming increasingly common and more sophisticated. These will provide us with invaluable information in the future about how certain people become attracted to gambling, what factors predict gambling disorder, and which treatments are most effective. This is an exciting and vital area of research.