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The Biochemistry of a Hidden Gambling Addiction

For the majority of people, gambling is a recreational activity. Unfortunately, some people fall victim to the so-called gambler’s fallacy. It is the erroneous belief that if a given event happens more frequently over a certain period, it is unlikely to occur often in the future and vice versa. A common belief is that people develop gambling problems because they are hoping to win some easy money.  


Different studies show that a large number of pathological gamblers are addicted to the need for risk and excitement. Even though gambling is a fun activity, it can be extremely dangerous. Interestingly, it has been recently recognized as a behavioral addiction. It is classed in the same category as substance addiction.  

What are the Symptoms of Gambling Addiction 


Knowing the symptoms of a gambling addiction might help a friend of yours or a relative to tackle the problem. Usually, it is hard to realize that someone is a compulsive gambler as people tend to hide or lie about their gambling problems. An important signal to recognize gambling addiction is the inability to stop gambling even after losing big money.  


Usually, compulsive gamblers do not perform well at work and prefer going to a gambling facility instead of meeting friends. They often need to borrow money to cover their financial problems. Gambling addiction also entails problems at home and a lack of trust. Most compulsive gamblers feel guilty after a gambling session.  


Factors contributing to a gambling addiction include financial troubles, overcoming social isolation by going to gambling establishments, boredom, and others. Nowadays, there are a large number of organizations specialized in helping people to overcome gambling problems. If you believe that someone has a gambling problem, do not hesitate to encourage him/her to seek professional help.  


The sooner a compulsive gambler receives help, the easier he/she will manage to cope with the problem. The 3 main ways to treat gambling problems include psychotherapy, medication, and support groups.  

How the Brain of a Gambling Addict Works 


Problem gambling was classified as a psychiatric disorder as far back as 1980. For years, it was believed that compulsive gamblers have lower levels of serotonin compared to non-gamblers. This means that pathological gamblers have disorders associated with controlling impulses. 


New researches show that compulsive gamblers do not suffer from problems in controlling impulses. It was found that gambling addicts have similar symptoms to people addicted to alcohol and drugs. In 2013, compulsive gambling was included in the category of substance-related disorder.  


Studies revealed that problem gamblers have lower levels of the brain chemical regulating feelings such as thrill and excitement. The prominent psychiatrist Dr. Alec Roy found out that the level of serotonin among compulsive gamblers is normal.  


On the other hand, the level of norepinephrine among gamblers is lower. In other words, problem gamblers need to indulge in “risky” activities to feel “alive”. The deficit of this chemical also makes problem gamblers less sensitive to losing money.  


A report by the UK Gambling Commission shows that males are more susceptible to gambling problems. Furthermore, the majority of compulsive gamblers are unemployed, studying, or retired individuals. In 2019, it was calculated that UK gamblers lost a total of £14.4 billion.  

What Governments Do to Tackle Gambling Problems? 


Compulsive gambling is a global problem and governments are introducing various measures to tackle gambling addiction. According to, some of the countries with the worst gambling problems are Australia, Singapore, Ireland, Canada, and Finland.  


The United Kingdom has turned into an exemplary country when it comes to problem gambling prevention measures. Some of the recently introduced measures include a ban on the use of credit cards for gambling purposes, age restrictions on VIP schemes, limitations regarding the spin speeds, and a ban on features that speed up the gameplay.  


Many countries, including the UK, introduced strict advertising rules for gambling commercials to limit children’s exposure to gambling advertising. According to our humble opinion, countries severely affected by gambling problems will keep on introducing new measures to tackle problem gambling.  



Categories: Entertainment

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