Addictions have always been a problem to humanity. Many people tend to explain them as weaknesses, sicknesses, or on the contrary, something not worth attention. People tend to think that addictions are mostly connected to substance consumption; everyone is aware of alcohol or drug addiction, for example. Recently, there have also been talks about Internet addiction, video game addiction, sexual addiction, selfie addiction, and so on. Although they pose a serious threat to one’s mental and physical wellbeing as well, rather often they are not taken as seriously as substance abuse. Among them is also gambling addiction, which can ruin lives, and can be difficult to detect and treat.
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So, what exactly is gambling addiction, and why is it considered to be so dangerous? Generally speaking, gambling addiction is a compulsive act of gambling. In other words, occasional gambling is not an addiction; systematic, frequent, and harmful gambling is. Compulsive gambling occurs regardless of a person’s financial status, family’s attitude, or work-related problems; a gambling addict will feel the urge to gamble even if he/she is already bankrupt, divorced, and fired—entirely for the thrill of the act of gambling itself. According to the American National Council on Problem Gambling, only in the United States, there are over two million people who meet the criteria of pathological gambling (meaning full-scale addiction), and about five more million whose gambling habits can be described as “problem gambling” (LiveStrong.com).
So, there is “healthy” gambling (meaning a gambling person does it for fun, has full control over this activity, and never harms themselves or other people through gambling, usually stopping when a money loss limit is reached, or earlier), and there is compulsive gambling; the latter possesses a number of attributes which allow to diagnose it rather accurately. These attributes are: constantly thinking about gambling, or about where to find more money to gamble (including theft and fraud); asking other people for money to continue gambling; gambling in an attempt to recover lost money; similarly to substance addiction, a pathological gambler needs the increasing amounts of money to feel the same thrill; gambling mostly is done to cope with difficult feelings such as anxiety, guilt, depression, or to get distracted from existing problems (including the gambling problem as well); lying to one’s family members about the scales of one’s gambling, or about the fact of gambling itself; losing precious relationships, jobs, reputations, and so on because of gambling (MayoClinic).
As it can be seen, gambling possesses attributes rather typical for any kind of addiction, so the reasons standing behind it may also resemble those causing other forms of addictive behavior. In particular, gambling may help a person escape from feelings of depression and anxiety; a gambler may dream of winning a significant sum of money, thus instantly increasing their own self-esteem, reputation, financial status, and achieving the sensation of accomplishing something important in life. Escaping from mundane reality may also be the subconscious purpose of a gambler; shiny casinos, loud arcades, being surrounded by people who occasionally actually win money—all this can create an illusion of welfare, luxury, and belonging to an elite society. Or, as it is in human nature to look for excitement (meaning thrilling or pleasant emotions and “the taste of life” they cause), gambling is often seen as a source of such emotions. Anticipating a jackpot, a gambler’s body produces large amounts of hormones responsible for pleasure and thrill (dopamine and adrenaline, for instance) causing a natural “high” not too much different from the one caused by substances. Besides, western society tolerates gambling much more than other forms of addiction, such as alcoholism or drug abuse. In fact, gambling is often seen as something thrilling but not dangerous, and mass media and advertising agencies only contribute to this image, producing pictures of a fashionable and stylish life connected to gambling; besides, many young people get introduced to gambling at a rather early age—for example, by playing cards or bingo with their parents; these family activities may look rather innocent, but it is important to remember they may also help a young person develop addiction at some point (HealthyPlace). If possible, it is better for parents to spend time with their children in some other ways.
Gambling is a form of addiction no different from substance abuse. It is a huge problem for the western world—just in the United States, there are roughly seven million people with varying degrees of pathological gambling behavior. Possessing a number of symptoms similar to less tolerated forms of addiction such as drug abuse, gambling is still seen as a relatively harmless activity. Mass media portrays gambling as an element of luxury, and many people having personal problems and trying to escape from them visit casinos, attempting to run away from their mundane lives. American society would benefit from gambling being treated as a form of behavior that can cause harm to both gamblers and their family members and friends, as it is already happens with alcoholism or drug addiction.
- Bergeson, Boyd. “What Causes Gambling Addiction?” LIVESTRONG.COM. Leaf Group, 17 Aug. 2015. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
- “Compulsive Gambling.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Oct. 2016. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
- Gluck, Samantha. “Psychology of Gambling: Why Do People Gamble?” HealthyPlace. N.p., n.d. Web. 24 Apr. 2017.
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