Gambling Addiction turns a fun and exciting activity into a Mental Health Disorder that negatively impacts your entire life. Like all Addiction Disorders, Gambling Addiction is a serious issue that impacts your relationships, work performance, and overall quality of life. If left untreated, Gambling Addiction can lead to financial issues, comorbid Mental Health Conditions like Depression and Anxiety, and increasingly risky behaviors that put yourself, your money, and your loved ones at risk.
It’s important to understand where Gambling Addiction comes from and how it can impact your life. Learn more about the most common risk factors for Gambling Addiction with this overview.
Peer Pressure and Other Social Influences
Exposure to gambling increases your risk of developing gambling habits for yourself. This is particularly true for adolescents or people who start gambling at a young age. Peer pressure from friends is one major example of how social influences can lead to Gambling Addiction. For instance, teens and young adults might participate in gambling to win social approval.
Familial influences can also play a significant role in the development of Gambling Addiction. Parents might intentionally or unintentionally introduce their children to gambling by setting an example with their own gambling habits, buying older children lottery tickets, and pursuing other forms of betting or gambling.
It’s important to note that peer pressure can influence adults as well as adolescents. When lottery tickets, poker games, or casino visits are part of adult friend groups, office cultures, and other environments, it increases your risk of developing an unhealthy obsession with gambling.
Anyone can enjoy gambling, but certain personality traits put you more at risk of that enjoyment turning into an unhealthy preoccupation that leads to addictive behavior. People who are competitive, impulsive, impatient, or restless are more likely to develop unhealthy relationships with gambling and any other addictive behavior.
This stems from the fact that gambling can be exciting and competitive, which means it’s an easy way to stave off boredom. Meanwhile, impulsive or reckless behavior makes it harder to make wise decisions when gambling. This can lead to large winnings or significant losses. Either way, the desire to keep playing—to make up for losses or win even more money—grows stronger with each competitive or impulsive urge that provides a euphoria or feeling of “high”.
Stress, Negativity, and Major Life Changes
Many Addiction Disorders begin as maladaptive coping techniques. Like drug or alcohol use, gambling has the potential to stimulate dopamine production. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter responsible for feelings of pleasure, motivation, and satisfaction. If you’re dealing with high-stress levels or negative life changes—like a breakup or the loss of your job—gambling can seem like a good way to manage those difficult emotions.
Unfortunately, coping through gambling is as damaging as coping through substance use or other harmful behaviors. The dopamine release can feel like a reward, but that good feeling doesn’t change the fact that you’re putting your money and well-being at risk. Furthermore, losing money while gambling can prevent that dopamine release and create added stress, which means you’ll want to bet or play more to chase those feelings of satisfaction or “high”.
Low Self-Esteem and Addiction
Low self-esteem can lead to ongoing feelings of stress, loneliness, and negativity. All of these emotions contribute to addictive behaviors.
For example, someone with a poor opinion of themselves might visit a casino in an attempt to find a distraction from their negative thoughts and ease feelings of worthlessness. Gambling can also be a social behavior, which means people who feel lonely or isolated might use a casino, poker game, or other gambling opportunities as a way to mingle with others. This can lead to positive experiences initially—such as a big win early on—which makes it even more tempting to continue gambling and eventually develop an obsession or dependency on the rush of gambling.
Current Age and Age You Began Gambling
As mentioned above, younger people are more likely to develop a Gambling Addiction. This is largely due to a higher susceptibility to peer pressure and low self-esteem. Additionally, many adolescents view gambling as one of the new and exciting things you can do once you come of age. As a result, age is one of the most common risk factors for Gambling Addictions.
Your age when you start gambling also affects your susceptibility to addiction. Many adults with Gambling Addictions placed their first bets as teenagers. Gambling at a young age can make the entire experience more thrilling, which in turn makes it more addictive and leads to addiction to gambling or substance and other vices. Furthermore, because Gambling Addictions develop over time, teens and young adults often don’t realize their behaviors are dangerous until it’s too late.
Men Are More at Risk
Anyone can develop a Gambling Addiction, but gambling problems—especially compulsive gambling—are more common in men than in women. Men are also more likely to start gambling earlier, making them more susceptible to Gambling Addiction as teens and young adults.
Medications known as dopamine agonists work by activating dopamine receptors in the brain. Doctors often prescribe these medications to help treat Parkinson’s disease or restless leg syndrome. While they are effective, dopamine agonists also have the potential to increase compulsive behaviors. This can lead to an increase in or development of gambling behaviors or other addictive behaviors.
Comorbid Mental Health Disorders, Including Mood Disorders and Personality Disorders
Addiction often goes hand in hand with other Mental Health Disorders. Many risk factors of Gambling Addiction—such as stress and poor self-esteem—are also risk factors for conditions like Depression, Anxiety Disorders, and Personality Disorders. Gambling Addiction is also frequently associated with the following:
- Antisocial Personality Disorder
- Bipolar Disorder
Gambling Addiction also feeds into Alcohol Addiction and other substance abuse disorders, and vice versa. Leaving one Mental Health Condition untreated worsens other issues, making you more susceptible to developing Depression, Anxiety, and other Mental Health Disorders and Personality Disorders or Mood Disorders. That’s why it’s crucial to seek professional help for your Gambling Addiction or other Mental Health Disorder as soon as possible.
Don’t let a Gambling Addiction take over your life. Dr. Blair, an Addiction Psychologist and the professional team at Blair Wellness Group, in the Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Century City, Brentwood, Westwood, Irvine, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, Laguna Beach, Corona Del Mar, Dana Point, Mission Viejo, and Aliso Viejo areas, can help you successfully treat your addictive behaviors and regain control over your life and relationships. Learn more about how our tailored, evidence-based treatment plans help clients achieve their clinical objectives and recovery from all addictions. Reach out to Blair Wellness Group today.