Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value, usually money, on an uncertain event with the hope of winning additional money or material goods. Examples of gambling include lotteries, horse races, casino games, and sports betting. In some cases, skill may be involved.
Pathological gambling (PG) is a persistent and recurrent maladaptive pattern of gambling behavior that meets specific criteria in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association. PG typically starts during adolescence or young adulthood and tends to involve nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines and bingo. It is more common among men than among women, and it occurs at a younger age in males.
Although there are many reasons why people gamble, most people do it for fun, to socialize, to escape boredom or stress, or because they think they can win big. There are healthier and safer ways to relieve unpleasant feelings than gambling, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or taking up a new hobby. Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling can help you work through specific issues that may be causing your loved one to gamble.
Longitudinal research is an important tool in understanding the etiology of pathological gambling. However, longitudinal studies present numerous challenges to researchers. For example, longitudinal data often confound aging and period effects (e.g., a person’s interest in gambling could be due to the opening of a casino near his or her home). It can also be difficult to maintain research team continuity over a long-term commitment and to ensure sample attrition is kept to a minimum.