Mental Health and Gambling

Gambling is an activity that involves risking something of value on a game of chance with the hope of winning something of greater value. This can be done legally or illegally, and can involve any number of games, including poker, slots, blackjack, sports betting, horse racing, lottery and other games of chance. The amount of money wagered worldwide each year is estimated to be $10 trillion. People gamble for many reasons, including to experience an adrenaline rush, to socialise or to escape from worries or stress. However, for some people gambling can become a serious problem. It can lead to debt, family problems and even suicide.

There are a number of ways to seek help for gambling disorders. Counselling can help people understand their gambling behaviour and think about how it affects them and those around them. It can also help them consider alternatives and solutions to harmful gambling. There are no drugs approved for the treatment of gambling disorders, but some medications used to treat other mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety can help.

In addition to counselling, family therapy can be helpful for those coping with a loved one who has a gambling problem. It can help family members learn to support each other, find healthy ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and set boundaries in managing money. It can also be a way for family members to connect with others who have experienced similar situations and feel like they are not alone.

Research has shown that those with a mental health condition are at a higher risk of developing a gambling disorder. In particular, those who are depressed or have suicidal thoughts are more likely to engage in harmful gambling than those who do not have such issues. Those who have other substance or alcohol use disorders are also at risk of developing gambling problems, but this is less common.

A person may start to develop a gambling disorder when they begin to lose control over their gambling and start to gamble beyond their means or spend an unreasonable amount of time engaged in this activity. They may also hide their gambling activity and lie to those around them about how much they are spending on it. They may try to cope with this by avoiding other activities, such as friends or family, or they might seek out online communities of gamblers.

Although there is evidence of a relationship between mental health and gambling, more long-term longitudinal studies are needed to understand this link. This is challenging, because there are a variety of obstacles to conducting longitudinal studies (e.g., funding, retaining researchers over time periods, sample attrition and confounding variables). Longitudinal studies on gambling are increasingly being conducted using a number of different methods and data sources, including self-reports, medical records, interviews with gamblers and their families and colleagues, and clinical assessments of behavioural patterns. In addition, the emergence of new technology allows for the study of online gambling and mobile phone gambling.