Gambling disorder involves repeated problem behavior with gambling. Behavior creates problems for the individual, families, and society. Adults and teens with gambling disorder have trouble controlling gambling. They will continue even when it causes major problems.
A gambling addiction is a progressive addiction that can have many negative psychological, physical and social repercussions. It is classified as an impulse control disorder. If gambling becomes a problem, it can lead to low self-esteem, stress, anxiety and depression. Although problems with the game may seem trivial on the surface, in reality, they are anything but.
One of the reasons that gambling disorder has been recognized is because of the serious consequences for individuals and their families. Many compulsive gamblers know that it is not a harmless hobby. In fact, gambling has serious effects on mental health. One study found biopsychosocial effects caused by pathological gambling, leading to direct triggers and worsening depression, anxiety, obsessive disorders and personality disorders.
Winning, losing, and the arduous process of continuing to find ways to play can have a dramatic impact on mental health. However, at this time, there are no known studies examining the weight or eating patterns of pathological players. Over the past 20 years, legalized gambling in the United States has expanded to the point where it is available in every state except Hawaii and Utah. Physicians must be aware of these consequences in order to prevent, identify and manage problems that arise due to continuous play.
Between 17 and 24 percent of pathological gamblers will attempt suicide during their lifetime, most likely to happen immediately after suffering a large loss. According to Gamblers Anonymous, founded in 1957 and now with meetings around the world following the Twelve Steps recovery program, answering these 20 questions can give a strong indication of a problem with gambling or not. Gamblers Anonymous runs support groups that use the same 12-step approach to recovery as Alcoholics Anonymous. The activity can be described in a spectrum ranging from abstinence to recreational play and problematic gambling.
If you see that gambling is a problem for someone you care about, you better be honest with that person about how it is affecting you. This behavioral addiction fits a definition of addiction that is widely used by mental health experts. This is the first installment of three articles that will focus on pathological gambling; the second will describe the clinical populations that are most vulnerable to becoming pathological players; and the third will describe psychotherapeutic approaches for pathological players. Many pathological players report increased periods of tension before the game that can only be relieved by gambling.
When you are stressed, play may seem like a relief and a distraction, but gambling can cause more stress in a number of ways. Up to 34% of problem players also experience extreme anxiety in the form of PTSD.