Gambling Disorders - Causes and Risks

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If known, what was the cause of your gambling disorder? Did you have a risk factor?

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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 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 in the form of compulsive gambling, may be a symptom 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. 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. 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.

Return to Gambling Addiction

See what others are saying

Comment from: david, 55-64 Male (Patient) Published: November 21

I had never been one to gamble. This is how it got started. One evening about 15 years ago, I left my usual routine of hanging out with friends, usually having a beer with them. I went to another bar alone and didn't even know why I left them and why I went there. I took a beer and with my last 3 $ coins went to a machine, deposited the coins and one of my early spins I hit a royal full, collected a pot of $ 100.00. Although, at first I did not think much of it, I have not been able to quit, except for one year of abstaining.

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Comment from: 777, 25-34 Male (Patient) Published: February 07

I never had any interest to gamble until I joined a colleague after work at a slot bar. I won about $40 and didn't think much of it. After a while it became a habit. Two problems were that it was next to my workplace and workers got together after work to have a beer there.

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