Gambling involves placing something of value at risk on an event with a random outcome, such as a football match or a scratchcard. Most people gamble without any problems but for a small number of people the gambling becomes out of control and can be harmful to their mental health.

People gamble for many reasons including the excitement of winning money, socialising with friends or to escape worries or stress. However, for some people the urge to gamble can become out of control and they can start betting more than they can afford to lose or even spend their rent or mortgage money on gambling. This can lead to debt and even bankruptcy. People who have a problem with gambling may also experience symptoms such as feelings of guilt, anxiety or depression. If you think that you may have a gambling disorder it is important to seek help and support. There are treatment options available including counselling, family therapy and self-help tips.

A diagnosis of pathological gambling (PG) is based on a person’s behaviour and their beliefs around betting. These can include that they are more likely to win than others, certain rituals will bring luck or that they can win back any losses by gambling more. There is a high comorbidity between PG and substance abuse disorders and it is thought that 4% of the US population may meet criteria for a PG diagnosis. PG often starts in adolescence or young adulthood and can develop at different times throughout a person’s life. Males and females develop PG at slightly different rates.

Although there are no medications approved by the FDA to treat a gambling disorder, a range of psychological therapies can be helpful. These include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) which looks at the beliefs and thoughts that people with a gambling disorder have about betting. It can also look at the ways that people with a gambling disorder behave and how they hide their betting activity.

Longitudinal research is important for studying the effects of gambling on individuals, families and communities. In particular, longitudinal studies allow researchers to compare changes over time, which can be more accurate than snapshot measurements. This is particularly important for studies that aim to identify factors that moderate and exacerbate the development of gambling disorder as well as for establishing causality. This type of research is typically conducted using questionnaires and interviews. However, there is increasing interest in the use of electronic instruments such as wearable devices and mobile applications to monitor gambling behavior in real-time. These tools can be useful for identifying the specific mechanisms that lead to gambling disorder and developing tailored interventions. They can also be used to improve the quality of existing research in this area.