To begin, it is necessary to define what we mean by problem gambling. Pathological gambling or pathological gambling is a disease that is characterized by addiction and the uncontrollable urge to play. Gambling addiction occurs in games that have addictive capacity, that is, in which little time elapses between the bet and the prizeachieved. It is important to emphasize that not all people who gamble develop a gambling addiction. Likewise, there are non-addicted people who also misuse gambling.

And why do you bet? Gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward systems, and cause addiction.

Today, these games can be played in physical locations and in their virtual alternatives on the Internet: casinos, betting rooms, etc. These types of addictions, that is, without substance, tend to go more unnoticed and be more accepted by society.

The starting age of players is getting earlier, especially on the Internet. This increase in numbers is supported, in part, by the image of the influential people who are willing to associate the game with something positive.

Phases of gambling addiction

It is possible that a person is born or grows up with a propensity to develop pathological gambling, but it does not develop spontaneously. It has a process with a series of stages:

  1. Gains Phase: continued success leads the patient to believe that he or she is special, with skills or unique luck, and you come to believe that you can change your life thanks to the game. This first stage isdecisive for the generation of the following ones, since the impact is devastating.
  2. Loss phase: the player begins to lose, and before each loss, the player tries to bet > enough to recover losses. At this stage, social relationships begin to become a hindrance.
  3. Desperation phase: at this stage, despair begins to arise to get the money for your debts. Anxiety and distress are triggered.
  4. Exhaustion phase: this stage is the most dangerous. The player knows that he will lose, but cannot refrain from playing again. He could begin to consider , even suicide .

Why is gambling addiction so serious?

These types of bets wreak havoc on family units and social relationships, mainly through the domino effect that It occurs and affects all significant areas of the person, harming the patient even at work. In recent decades, gambling addiction is the most commonly treated non-substance addiction in health centers.

Addiction can impact each family differently, but some of the most common consequences are:

  • Emotional problems and psychological problems in all family members.
  • Deterioration of family dynamics.
  • Minimization and/or hiding the problem.
  • Economic and legal problems.
  • Workand academic problems.
  • Conflicts associated directly to the problem.
  • Emergence of other addictions, to make the main one or its psychological consequences more bearable.
  • Poor general state of health.
  • Suicide, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts.

Symptoms and indicators of gambling addiction

  • First of all, present the same traits as an addict: repetition of a behavior or action that is pleasurable; loss of control; or withdrawal syndrome if the habit is interrupted.
  • Sudden economic problems.
  • Being concerned about gambling, for example by continually planning how to win more.
  • Need to bet higher and higher sums (and yet achieve the same excitement).
  • Exhibit restlessness or irritability when trying to reduce bets.
  • Gaming to escape problems or relieve negative feelings.
  • Try to recover losses with more bets.
  • Hide the magnitude of the bets on your environment.
  • Jeopardizing or losing important relationships due to gambling.
  • Resort to theft or fraud to recover losses.
  • Ask other people to take care of yourfinancial problems due to gambling.

However, unlike casual gamblers, people who suffer from gambling addiction cannot help but continue to gamble, generating a pattern that becomes increasingly more destructive over time.

Some people may have remission periods, where they reduce their amount of gambling for a while. Without treatment, this remission is merely temporary.

Risk factors

Although the majority of people who play do not usually develop a problem, there are certain factors that are becoming increasingly Associated with gambling addiction:

  • Mental health disorders. Sensitive people are people who can already have problems with substance abuse, personality disorders, depression or anxiety, although it can also be associated with other disorders.
  • Pathful gambling is more common in young and middle-aged people, and it is also more common in men > than in women.
  • Influence of family or friends.
  • Certain medications called dopamine agonists may have a rare side effect, causing compulsive behaviors.< /li>
  • Certainpersonality characteristics: competitiveness, workaholism, impulsivity, restlessness , or a person who gets bored easily.
  • Propensity to become addicted if exposed to gambling.
  • Problems of psychological instability or with personal and social problems.
  • Game structure and advertising: depending on the game, it may have more or less addictive components. In addition, the publicity available can even reinforce the idea that the game can really be a solution.
  • Current specific factors: 24-hour connection to the Internet; the lack of filters in content for minors; the lack of limits on the part of the adults in charge; nomophobia, or pathological dependence on the mobile phone; or excessive leisure.
  • Today, betting houses also function as places for socializing, and some are located even nearby< /strong> of educational centers.

It must be taken into account that problem gambling develops differently depending on the predisposition.

What is the most appropriate treatment for gambling addiction?

Treatment for gambling addiction can be complex. In part, this may be due to patients’ difficulty in admitting that they have a problem.

Treatment may include the following approaches:

  • Behavioral therapy or cognitive behavioral therapy can be very helpful. Behavioral therapy uses systematic exposure to negative behavior and helps with strategies to reduce addiction. On the other hand, cognitive behavioral therapy focuses on identifying harmful beliefs and replacing them with positive and healthy ones. >. Family therapy can also help.
  • Medicines, such as antidepressants and mood stabilizers can help solve disorders adjacent to gambling, and even be effective in reducing gambling behavior.
  • Self-help groups.

Young people: the new risk group

Currently, online gambling affects 3 young people for every adult, according to a study carried out by the organization Man of León Project. This same study has revealed that young people participate in activities related to gambling addiction even more frequently than other behaviors considered by society as >addictive. The proliferation of games of chance and betting on the Internet has made the age at which they begin to bet young people decreases, facilitating not only access, but the entire process inherent to the game itself.

The problem, furthermore, is that young people do not usually admit their problem, and therefore, very few seek treatment or simply professional advice.

In these cases, the most appropriate thing is to try to detect addictive behaviors as early as possible. There are three key signs:

  • Excessive interest in gambling: one of the most common modalities is sports betting. If the young person appears anxious, we can generate a solid suspicion.
  • Lying to cover up gambling addiction: Lying about whether, when, how much and where they play is also an important clue.
  • Problems with money: suddenly, the person begins to lack money, and may ask for it, surprise you stealing< /strong>, etc.

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