Problem gambling is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Problem gambling is often defined by whether harm is experienced by the gambler or others, rather than by the gamblers behaviour. Severe problem gambling may be diagnosed as clinical pathological gambling if the gambler meets certain criteria. Pathological gambling is a common disorder that is associated with both social and family costs.
Gambling becomes an addiction when it is something you or a loved one cannot control and when it begins to affect a person’s financial, familial, social, recreational, educational, or occupational functioning. Gambling addiction, much like some forms of substance addiction, is associated with a release of dopamine in the brain as much as 10 times more than what is normal.3 Dopamine has been referred to as the “feel good” neurotransmitter, and this special signaling chemical is active throughout the reward centers of the brain.
This happens because of the body’s natural response to external stimulation of dopamine production. In essence, dopamine centers become lazy and stop doing what they are intended to do, instead simply waiting around for gambling to do the work for them. This very natural physiological tendency creates tolerance, which drives a need for more and more gambling in order to receive the same rush. Gambling dependence may then develop in which a person must gamble just to feel good or even to feel normal.
Gambling addiction facts
- Compulsive gambling affects 2%-3% of Finns, can involve a variety of ways and places to bet, and symptoms may differ somewhat between males and females, as well as teenagers versus adults.
- Although men tend to develop a gambling addiction at a higher rate and at younger ages than women, women now make up more than one-quarter of all compulsive gamblers, and women’s symptoms tend to worsen faster once compulsive gambling develops.
- As opposed to pathological gambling, problem gambling involves more than one but less than five symptoms of compulsive gambling.
- Although direct causes of compulsive gambling are unusual, the manic episodes associated with bipolar disorder and some medications that treat Parkinson’s disease and restless leg syndrome have been associated with the development of this disorder.
- Risk factors for pathological gambling include schizophrenia, mood problems, antisocial personality disorder, alcohol, or cocaine addiction.
- The diagnosis of compulsive gambling involves identifying at least five symptoms that indicate poor impulse control when it comes to gambling, as well as ruling out other potential causes of the behaviors.
- As with any mental-health condition, accurate diagnosis of gambling addiction requires a complete physical and psychological evaluation, including a mental-status examination and appropriate laboratory tests to rule out other possible causes of the symptoms that are being observed.
- The treatment of compulsive gambling usually uses more than one approach, including psychotherapy, medication, financial counseling, support groups, 12-step programs, and self-help techniques.
- The prognosis of recovery from compulsive gambling is encouraging with treatment.
- Although pathological gambling may resolve with time on its own in many individuals, the devastating effects it usually has on the person’s financial, family, legal, and mental-health status indicates that treatment should be attempted by anyone who is motivated to get help for this disorder.
- Prevention of compulsive gambling usually involves addressing risk factors and educating the public about the warning signs of this disorder.