Gambling Addiction

Gambling addiction is a disease manifested by a pathological dependence on gambling, leading to negative social consequences, destruction of family and professional relationships, and problems with finances and the law. A morbid attraction to games is a mental disorder and is also called gambling addiction or pathological gambling. Clinical criteria are used to make a diagnosis. Gambling therapy includes psychotherapy, drug therapy, and self-help group programs.

The prevalence of gambling addiction among adults is about 1.6%, among adolescents and young adults – up to 5.77%. The disease affects men 20-40 years old, often in combination with alcohol dependence. Among females, older divorced women with mood disorders and depression predominate.

Causes of gambling addiction

Gambling addiction should be considered a disorder resulting from the interaction of hereditary, biological, behavioural, cognitive, psychological and social causes.

Heredity. The contribution of heredity to the occurrence of the disease is 50-60%. Gambling addicts have a genetic predisposition to satisfaction deficit syndrome, which is recognized as one of the leading causes of addiction. It is much more common for relatives of compulsive gamblers to experience alcoholism, drug addiction, and other mental health issues.

Inferiority of brain structures. MRI studies have revealed that in the case of gambling addiction, there is a decrease in the sensitivity of the “reward system” and increased activation of several areas of the brain responsible for cognitive and mental functions compared to healthy people.

Reinforcement theory. In this case, the incentive is money. In gambling, reinforcement occurs randomly and unpredictably. The longer the intervals between reinforcements, the more dependent behaviour is stimulated.

The presence of cognitive (mental) distortions of players – exaggeration of their skill, false ideas that they are more successful than other people and can control their passion.

Psychological reasons: loneliness, impulsiveness, excessive sociability, desire to imitate others.

Social factors. Pathological gambling can be a consequence of unhealthy relationships in the family, the installation of incorrect values ​​from childhood, gambling addiction in relatives, or the presence of financial problems.

Environmental factors include:

  • Accessibility and legality of games.
  • Organization of numerous prize draws on television.
  • Online casinos and mobile applications have been developed to allow every one of any age to play a variety of gambling games around the clock.

Of all these components, environmental factors are dominant at 36%, with social factors in second place – 22%. Gambling addiction, as a rule, occurs secondary, against the background of other already existing psychological problems – alcoholism, drug addiction, etc.

Pathogenesis of gambling addiction

Gambling addiction is classified as a so-called non-chemical addiction. Stress plays a decisive role in pathogenesis, which causes the production and secretion of hormones such as catecholamines, glucocorticoids and dopamine. The reward system’s main neurotransmitter is dopamine. Against the background of increased exposure to stress, this system fails. When enough dopamine is released as a result of stimulating, enjoyable activities, a person experiences euphoria and motivation to repeat the action. As a result, less of it begins to be produced in response to normal stimuli. However, the body still needs the same amount of dopamine to function correctly.…

Behavioural Factors of A Person Addicted To Gambling

Such a person becomes very nervous and irritable for no reason. His physical health begins to deteriorate; he sleeps poorly and may even develop chronic insomnia. His appetite worsens, and his digestion deteriorates. This dependence directly affects the functioning of the heart and blood vessels, so patients often begin to suffer from heart pain and vascular dystonia.

Concerning mental health, then gambling addiction can develop into chronic depression or cause psychosis. Panic and unreasonable fear appear when there is no opportunity to play, and also if a person is deeply in debt and there is no way to pay them off. Often, there is a desire to commit suicide. These are the negative consequences that haunt those who were unable to stop in time and fell under the influence of a terrible disease -gambling addiction.

Stages of gambling addiction (ludomania)

Experts have identified two stages, which turn into one another if intensive treatment is not started in time.

The first stage, which can last up to two years, is called sub compensation. At this stage, a person can give up gaming and get rid of the initial stage of a painful addiction. If this happens, then often there is no need for intervention from doctors.

If not, then this stage gains momentum and moves into the second – the stage of decompensation. That is, this disease becomes stable in a person’s life and changes his consciousness. At this stage, it is necessary to treat and help real specialists since it is almost impossible to get rid of addiction on your own. At different stages, there is a time when the patient can independently give up gaming for a short time, but this does not mean complete recovery and freedom from addiction.

Exit from society

A person who falls into the trap of gambling addiction becomes an outcast from society. Everything that interested him before – his hobbies, career, work, family obligations, friendship and communication – all fade into the background or even become unnecessary and uninteresting for him. He has no desire to communicate with anyone, make acquaintances, or even go out in public. There is a complete decomposition of a person as an individual, and his detachment from society has a negative impact on the fact that he ceases to care about his appearance. A person sinks to the level of a homeless person or a drug addict. That’s why gambling addiction is truly a disease which needs to be treated.

Life of healthy people next to gambling addicts

It often happens that entirely healthy people who are close to people with an addiction begin to experience similar symptoms of the disease. They develop a tendency towards depression and cause headaches. This is the definition of so-called codependency. And all because in the family, all efforts are aimed at helping the patient, to bring him into society, to help him get rid of his gambling addiction on his own. But more often than not, such efforts fail. Family members also temporarily withdraw from society and cease to be interested in what is happening around them. This is all because a loved one needs urgent help, but they don’t know what else can be done for him since nothing works. Therefore, it is often necessary to carry out rehabilitation for the entire family of a gambling addict in order to restore an average living climate and return people to everyday human life.

Rehabilitation Center “Respect”

Any person who has fallen under the dangerous influence of gambling addiction needs treatment and rehabilitation. It is best if the family itself takes care that the loved one can start treatment. Because, as a rule, a gambling addict cannot adequately assess the situation and his deplorable situation. IN rehabilitation Centre “Respect “assists such people at the highest level so that a person can not only return to his family and society, regain a standard understanding of the world and become a full member of society, but also so that a protracted illness does not return and take deeper roots in his consciousness. The best thing is to work with these specialists and psychologists, who can help you stop and start living your whole life.…

Types of Gamblers

Among pathological gamblers, several subgroups can be distinguished:

Some are characterized by early onset, rapid progression, the presence of signs of behavioural disorders and hyperactivity syndrome in childhood, impulsivity, and dependence on psychoactive substances and alcohol.

Others become gamblers in adulthood through the mechanism of positive reinforcement after a string of winnings.

Still, others develop an addiction due to the use of games as a means of relief from problems, helplessness, and depressive disorders.

Treatment of gambling addiction

The treatment and rehabilitation program for gambling addiction includes psychotherapy, pharmacotherapy and social therapy.


Psychotherapy is aimed at overcoming the pathological craving for games, correcting mental disorders that arise as a result of gambling addiction, and treating comorbidities. In severe cases, it is performed in a hospital setting. The primary method is cognitive behavioural therapy. It consists of several stages:

Conducting a motivational interview to determine the patient’s interest in treatment, ways to increase it, and planning possible ways to change behaviour.

Identifying situations that lead to gambling – triggers. Developing alternative actions when these situations arise.

It is keeping a diary of the patient, which records triggers or situations that cause strong emotions.

We are developing an action plan when an urge to play arises—mandatory encouragement for success.

Training in autogenic training techniques – self-hypnosis, elements of oriental techniques and immersion in a relaxation state.

Group therapy

In addition to individual counselling, psychotherapeutic work is carried out in small groups and family sessions. The main directions of the groups’ work are edge, working with feelings and their manifestations, interpersonal communication training, and group analysis of independent work. Family sessions are aimed at building relationships with loved ones. Information and educational sessions are also conducted, where attention is paid to the causes, development and consequences of gambling addiction, information about groups of “Gamblers Anonymous” and other knowledge necessary to prevent relapses are provided.

Gamblers Anonymous groups are self-help groups for pathological gamblers. They are the result of the voluntary association of patients themselves with the goal of helping themselves, and others get on the path to recovery. Participants receive support, information, and the opportunity to “talk it out” and thereby experience catharsis and relief. The groups are accessible and free, and participation is anonymous and confidential.

Drug therapy 

It is an addition to psychotherapy. The most commonly used are antidepressants, mood stabilizers, and opioid receptor antagonists.

Prevention of gambling addiction

Educating the public about the dangers of addiction and the detrimental effects connected to it is the first step towards preventing the emergence of a gambling addiction. Legislative measures play a significant role: licensing of gambling establishments, age restrictions, banning gambling advertising, moving establishments outside of cities, etc. An important area is public measures: the formation of a negative attitude towards gambling in society, support for self-help groups, and preparation and release of videos, posters, and books.

Secondary prevention is aimed at working with representatives of the risk group: classes, training, motivational counselling, drug and psychotherapeutic treatment of people with initial signs of addiction to games, and family and group psychotherapy. Tertiary prevention is carried out among patients in remission.