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.

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