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- Patient Comments: Gambling Disorders - Causes and Risks
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- Gambling addiction facts
- What is a gambling addiction?
- What are causes and risk factors for gambling addiction?
- What are symptoms and signs of a gambling addiction?
- How do health-care professionals diagnose a gambling addiction? What specialists diagnose and treat this illness?
- What is the treatment for gambling addiction?
- What is the prognosis for gambling addiction?
- What are complications and negative effects of gambling addiction?
- Is it possible to prevent gambling addiction?
- Where can people get support for gambling addiction?
- Where can people find more information about how to overcome gambling addiction?
What are causes and risk factors for gambling addiction?
When contemplating why people gamble, it is important to understand that there is usually no one specific cause for pathological gambling. Some potential exceptions include the observation that some individuals who are given medications that treat Parkinson's disease or restless leg syndrome (including pramipexole [Mirapex]) have been observed to develop impulse-control disorders like compulsive gambling, shopping, or compulsive sexual behaviors. The theory about that connection involves the increased activity of the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain. Another example where compulsive gambling may have a single cause is in bipolar disorder since exorbitant spending, including compulsive gambling, may be a symptom of the mania that is part of bipolar disorder.
Much more commonly, gambling addiction, like most other emotional conditions, is understood to be the result of a combination of biological vulnerabilities, ways of thinking, and social stressors (biopsychosocial model). There are, however, elements that increase the likelihood that the individual will develop a gambling addiction. Risk factors for developing pathological gambling include schizophrenia, mood problems, antisocial personality disorder, and alcohol or cocaine addiction. Individuals who have a low level of serotonin in the brain are also thought to be at higher risk for developing pathological gambling compared to others.
People who suffer from compulsive gambling have a tendency to be novelty seekers, feel disconnected (dissociated), relaxed, or aroused while gambling or playing video games. Research also shows that individuals who have money problems, win a large amount of money early into gambling, suffer a recent loss (like divorce, job loss), or are lonely increases the risk of developing compulsive gambling. Easy access to gambling (for example, living near towns with many gambling resources, such as Las Vegas or Atlantic City), belief that they’ve discovered a system to winning at gambling and failing to keep track of money won and lost gambling are more risk factors for engaging in compulsive gambling.
What are symptoms and signs of a gambling addiction?
Pathological gambling involves persistent and recurring problem gambling that includes several of the following symptoms that are not the result of another mental-health problem, like during a manic episode:
- A preoccupation with gambling, either by reliving past gambling, planning for future gambling experiences, and/or thinking of ways to secure money to finance gambling
- Needing more and more money for gambling in order to achieve the desired level of gambling enjoyment
- Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop or reduce betting behaviors
- Becoming uneasy or easily irritated when trying to reduce or stop gambling
- Gambling for the purpose of escaping problems or to relieve depression or anxiety
- Returning to gambling after losing money in an effort to recoup losses
- Lying to family or other loved ones, mental-health professionals, or others in an effort to hide the extent of the gambling behavior
- Committing crimes (for example, stealing, fraud, or forgery) or securing illegal loans to finance gambling
- Risking important relationships, employment, or other opportunities due to gambling
- Depending on others for money to resolve dire financial situations that are the result of gambling