What Causes a Gambling Disorder?


Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an uncertain event, with the intent to win something else of value. The terms “gambling” and “gambling disorder” are used to describe a range of behavior problems, including compulsive gambling. People who have a gambling disorder are at risk for serious financial, social and personal consequences. They often lie to family members, therapists, and others in order to conceal their gambling involvement. They may also jeopardize a job, education, or relationship in order to gamble. Those who have a problem with gambling may experience feelings of helplessness and depression. Some have even committed illegal acts, such as forgery and fraud, to finance their addiction.

While the causes of gambling disorders are not fully understood, research suggests that genetic factors play a role. Studies of identical twins show that some people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder than others. A history of childhood trauma and stress is also associated with a greater risk for developing a gambling disorder.

Other factors that can contribute to a gambling disorder include:

Gambling can lead to an overproduction of dopamine, which is an important brain chemical involved in reward processing and impulse control. When this occurs, the person becomes desensitized to the pleasure that comes from gambling and requires more and more of it to feel the same effect. Consequently, the urge to gamble becomes stronger and more frequent.

Another factor is the environment in which someone lives. A gambling-friendly culture can encourage an individual to gamble, and it can be difficult to recognize a gambling disorder when surrounded by people who think it’s a normal pastime.

It’s also important to address any mental health issues that may be contributing to the gambling disorder. Depression, anxiety and substance abuse can trigger or make the symptoms of gambling disorder worse. Getting treatment for these conditions can help a person gain control over their life and focus on healthier activities.

The first step to overcoming a gambling disorder is admitting that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to do so, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or strained or broken relationships as a result of your gambling habits. Seek support from friends and family, and consider joining a peer support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous. You can also get help by calling a gambling hotline or seeking assistance from your doctor or a therapist.