Causes and Treatment of Gambling Disorders


Gambling is a form of entertainment where people place bets on events that have an element of chance. Whether it is placing a bet on a football match, horse race or a scratchcard, the chances of winning are not known beforehand. The odds are calculated by the betting company and set based on previous results and actuarial data.

Gamblers may gamble for different reasons, such as the excitement of winning money or to socialise with friends. However, it is important to know your limits and not let gambling become a problem. If you are concerned that you or someone you know is gambling too much, there are ways to seek help and advice. For example, you can seek debt advice from StepChange or join a support group such as Gamblers Anonymous. Alternatively, you can try self-help tips such as setting limits on spending and only gambling with money that you can afford to lose.

A person with a gambling disorder is at risk of losing control of their finances, putting themselves in financial hardship and potentially leading to mental health problems. These problems include anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, call 999 or visit A&E immediately.

There are no medications specifically approved for gambling disorders but psychotherapy can be helpful. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help a person with a gambling disorder identify and change unhealthy beliefs and behaviours. It can also teach coping skills to manage difficult emotions and situations. Psychotherapy typically takes place with a trained mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker.

Research into the causes and treatment of gambling disorders is ongoing. Longitudinal studies can provide important insights by allowing researchers to track changes over time. These studies can reveal how certain conditions and circumstances affect gambling behavior and by identifying key causal factors. This type of research is especially valuable in the case of pathological gambling, as previous studies have only identified symptom patterns without establishing causality.

Several epidemiological studies have suggested that people who experience depressive mood are at greater risk of developing a gambling disorder. Various theories have been proposed to explain this association, including the hypothesis that depressive symptoms predate or accompany the development of gambling disorder. Other investigators have found that the relationship between mood and gambling is bidirectional, with both depression and gambling affecting mood.

Gambling can lead to addiction and is a serious issue for many people. It can cause significant financial, emotional and psychological harm and can even lead to criminal activity. Gambling disorder is now included in the DSM-5 under the category of behavioral addictions, which includes substance and Internet addictions, along with a number of other impulsive disorders. In addition, it has been shown that people with other psychiatric disorders are at greater risk of gambling disorders. This suggests that gambling disorder is a component of a wider psychiatric illness and needs to be addressed alongside other symptoms.