There are many things people can get addicted to. Nowadays, it is not uncommon to run into news headlines such as, “More and more, teenagers fall victim to Internet addiction,” or “X has been proven to cause addiction,” where X can be almost anything. It is well-known that along with the “classical” addiction to certain substances (alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, drugs, narcotics, and so on), there are addictions more of a psychological nature: sex addiction, emotional addiction, addiction to video games, adult movies addiction, and so on.
One of the most destructive—in terms of personal and social well-being—is a gambling addiction, or gambling disorder. Usually, it is associated with casinos, roulette, card games, and so on, although in a broader perspective a gambling addiction implies compulsive engagement in games of chance: the thrill comes from risking something valuable in order to get something of an even greater value.
Let us take a closer look at what a gambling addiction is, what are its symptoms, and in which ways it can be dangerous to a person and people surrounding them.
First of all, it is important to know that gambling works like substances: it stimulates the brain’s reward system, making a person crave more of the pleasant activity, and gradually raises his or her tolerance towards stimuli (Mayo Clinic). In other words, as time goes on, a person needs stronger stimuli to achieve the same intensity of sensations. Gambling is a widespread problem: only in the United States, up to 3% of population are compulsive gamblers; the severity and diversity of symptoms varies depending on a gambler’s gender and age, but overall it is clear that millions of Americans are addicted to games of chance (MedicineNet.com).
It might seem that a gambling addiction is not as awful and destructive as in the case with drugs of alcohol; however, this is not true. Gambling, when it turns from a leisure activity into a pathology, it can ruin one’s personal and social life, career, self-esteem, and lead to unpredictable but dire consequences. If we take a look at the symptoms in which addictive gambling manifests itself, we will see how dangerous it is. It is essential to mention that there is pathological gambling, and there is problem gambling; the only aspect they differ in is the quantity and the intensity of symptoms. Gambling is considered problematic when a person demonstrates more than one but less than five symptoms of addictive gambling, whereas a pathology starts from five and above (MedicineNet.com). In both cases, it is important to see a specialist in order to help a person get over the problem.
One of the most typical symptoms of compulsive gambling is the constant preoccupation with it: a person will always think about it, plan it, and seek money to be able to make a bet. However, the same amount of money is never enough: in order to obtain satisfaction, a gambler constantly needs to increase the sums of money—otherwise the high is not intense enough. If such a person loses multiple times, instead of stopping, he or she begins “chasing losses,” which means gambling more in order to win back the money that was lost. In order to garner more money, a gambling addict can resort to immoral actions (lying) and crime (theft, robbery, fraud), or asking others to bail him or her out. At the same time, the gambler will try to hide the scales of his or her gambling problem from his or her family members and friends, secretly trying to cut back or stop gambling (as a rule, they fail in these attempts). All this leads to decreased self-esteem, depression, problems with the law or with criminals, loss of a job and/or family, and can result in even more intense gambling, since people addicted to it use it to escape their problems (Mayo Clinic).
As we can see, gambling is a vicious cycle that can rarely be broken by a person on his or her own; usually, in order to get rid of the problem, it is required that a gambler reaches out for professional psychological assistance. Gambling can cause serious financial problems, ruin relationships and careers, lead to depression and crime, and in general consume too much time and resources to be considered a regular leisure activity.
“Compulsive Gambling.” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 22 Oct. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/compulsive-gambling/symptoms-causes/syc-20355178.
Dryden-Edwards, Roxanne. “Gambling Addiction Causes, Treatment & Symptoms.” MedicineNet, www.medicinenet.com/gambling_addiction/article.htm.
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