Gambling addiction

Gambling addicts depend on gambling as much as alcoholics on the next glass. What you should know about gambling addiction.

Gambling addiction

People with gambling addiction suffer from the compulsive urge to gamble. At slot machines, in casinos or through betting, they often lose all their fortune. Play becomes serious, because the consequences of gambling addiction can be dramatic. Gambling addiction is a disease that usually can not be solved without professional help. Read all important information about gambling addiction here.

ICD codes for this disease: ICD codes are internationally valid medical diagnosis codes. They are found e.g. in doctor's letters or on incapacity certificates. F63

Marian Grosser, Doctor

Relatives recognize the seriousness of the situation much earlier than the addicted to gambling. In therapy, friends and family members can be important motivational factors.

Product Overview

gambling addiction

  • description

  • symptoms

  • Causes and risk factors

  • Examinations and diagnosis

  • treatment

  • Disease course and prognosis

Gambling addiction: description

Gambling addicts often spend many hours daily in front of the slot machine, in casinos or online poker. They not only lose their money, but also their family and friends. The dependency is fatal for those affected, even if it is not tied to a particular substance, such as cocaine or alcohol dependence. Even with the behavioral addictions, to which the gambling addiction belongs, the person concerned loses control and has to play out of an inner compulsion again and again. The consequences are high debts, the loss of social contacts. Neglecting their job to play or even misappropriating money to finance their addiction also threatens job loss.

The gambling addiction is recognized by the health insurance companies as a disease and referred to in English as "pathological gambling". Translated to German means "morbid (pathological) gambling". In most of these games it is not the ability to decide on the outcome, but profit or loss depends on chance. Gambling addiction includes various types of gambling. Most gambling addicts play at slot machines, followed by casino games, betting, card and dice games. Rarely do you find gambling addicts among the lottery players.

Recently, online gambling such as poker has become more popular on the internet. Although they are prohibited in Germany almost everywhere - but on the Internet, it can play across borders. That can go wrong, since legal claims abroad can hardly be enforced.

Other mental disorders

In addition to the gambling addiction often occur even more mental disorders (comorbidity). Patients often suffer from personality, anxiety and depressive disorders as well as drug addiction. More than half of all gambling addicts are alcoholic. The addicts also often have impaired self-esteem, panic and attachment anxiety.

How many people suffer from gambling addiction?

In Germany, the Federal Ministry of Health estimates the number of people with problematic or morbid gambling behavior at 500,000. This figure refers to the age group of 16- to 65-year-olds. However, gambling addiction can be assumed to have a high number of unreported cases: Those affected are usually not detected until they seek help.

Gambling and addiction increasingly affects men. Women make up less than a third of the morbid players. Men usually get sick earlier in the gambling addiction than women, which are usually affected only in middle age. But even among women, the number of gambling addicts is increasing. In general, however, gambling addiction occurs in adolescents as well as adults and the elderly.

Gambling addiction: symptoms

Gambling addiction usually develops in a slow process often over several years. First, the affected play for pleasure and the extent is limited. After about two years, the phase of excessive gambling begins. The player loses control of his behavior and plays out of inner compulsion. It then usually takes a few more years for the person concerned to realize that he needs help. According to this, experts divide gambling addiction into corresponding phases: the positive initial stage, the habituation stage and the addiction stage. At each stage, specific signs appear.

The positive initial stage

At the beginning of the affected person plays only occasionally. The stakes provide thrills and the profits delight and let the everyday problems disappear for some time. The game is regulated and the player continues to fulfill his obligations, leisure activities and social contacts. One speaks in this phase of the entertainment and casual player. Frequently, however, the first larger gains lead to a strong lure to play again and again.

The habituation stage

In the habituation phase, the player gradually loses control over how much he plays and how much money he uses. Gambling becomes a regular distraction in everyday life. The profits create a strong sense of happiness and instead of stopping to win, players challenge their luck. Since games of chance are based on the fact that in the long run not the players win, but the offerers, the losses exceed in the long run the profit. If the players have lost money, then they certainly can not stop. Further missions follow, hoping to make up for the loss. Often, players do not realize that they are losing control. Experts then speak of a "magical thinking". The players are not responsible for coincidence, but their behavior for the profit or the loss. Some also believe that certain lucky charms, certain rituals or strategies have an impact on the player's success.

The person affected has become a problem player from the casual player. Gambling now plays an important part in life, and its emotions are closely tied to gambling. Self-confidence and the joy of life now depend on profit. A loss causes dejection and a loss of self-esteem. Consequently, many are already very tense and easily irritated before the game.

Friends, hobbies and work take a back seat. Gambling is kept secret from others as much as possible. For this, the players are usually entangled in a web of lies. It becomes especially dangerous when he increasingly becomes indebted. Difficulties with the bank, at work and with the family are just the beginning of the downward spiral of gambling addiction. Relatives who address the behavior of the gambling addict often encounter this with aggression and denial. In order to avoid confrontations, those affected increasingly distance themselves from their social environment.

The addiction stage

In the last stage, the players are also called excess and desperate players. For the duration and use of the game, there are now no rational limits. The players have to take more and more risk in the stakes to experience a thrill (tolerance development). To increase the appeal, for example, some play at several ATMs at the same time. The control has now completely disappeared. Many have lost their jobs, their partners and social contacts at this stage and have great difficulties in all other areas of life. The players have no realistic idea of ​​normal amounts of money, the debts are often so high that they can not be repaid - they gamble away their belongings. The consequences are so massive that even the person himself can no longer ignore them. Nevertheless, addicted players can not stop playing. Because the potential gains seem to be the only way out of the trouble - a dangerous fallacy.

In the addictive state, players also show physical and psychological symptoms. Stress and anxiety are increasing. Addicts (pathological) players can be recognized by their shaky hands and heavy sweating. Some players lose themselves in gambling and sometimes do not know where they are.

Gambling Addiction: Causes and Risk Factors

There is no single cause for pathological gambling. Several factors play a role in the development of gambling addiction. Presumably, the root lies in the interaction of genetic, psychosocial and biological influences.

Gambling addiction: Genetic factors

Using twin and adoption studies, researchers have studied the genetic part of gambling addiction. As is the case with other addictions, gambling addiction frequently occurs in families. If a parent suffers from gambling addiction, the children have a 20 percent risk of gambling addiction. The identical twin of a victim will expire with 23 percent probability of gambling addiction. However, the genes alone can not be held responsible for gambling addiction. But they increase the susceptibility (vulnerability). For the emergence of gambling addiction corresponding environmental factors must be added.

Gambling Addiction: Psychosocial Factors

Gambling addicts often have low self-esteem resulting from early negative experiences. Traumatic experiences in childhood are a major risk factor for the development of mental disorders and thus also for the gambling addiction.

Gambling addicts often claim to have a troubled relationship with their father. If the needs are not sufficiently considered by the parents in early childhood, this can have far-reaching consequences. Many sufferers then have difficulty dealing with their emotions as adults. Gambling addiction, like other addictions, is abused by addicts to regulate emotion. The game distracts from the real problems in reality. All senses are fully focused on the game.The winnings give players the illusion of control over their game luck and boost their self-esteem. In case of losses they continue to play. Because the excitement before the new game again creates a positive feeling.

An important social factor is that gambling is to some extent socially acceptable. For example, the lottery is not only publicly advertised but also offered in many stores. This promotes the gambling addiction. Gambling machines are not only located in arcades, but also restaurants or bars offer them.

Gambling addiction: biological factors

The creeping development of gambling addiction seems to play out in the reward system of the brain. The so-called mesolimbic system in our brain is conditioned to the stimuli that trigger the fast and risky game. It gradually learns to pay more and more attention to them - at the expense of other thoughts and feelings. The mesolimbic system is associated with positive emotions. This is mainly due to the messenger substance dopamine. Dopamine is not only released more often when we eat, drink or have sex, gambling also leads to an increased release of dopamine. The messenger substance triggers pleasant emotions, thus rewarding these behaviors and directing our attention to them. In excessive gambling, the effect of dopamine decreases. Because the body has gotten used to the messenger substance and does not respond to it so much. However, the player wants to experience the reward feeling again. For this he must extend the seasons or use higher sums of money.

Studies also show that lower activity in the anterior region of the brain (frontal cortex) and lack of serotonin interfere with impulse control. These changes may explain why people with gambling addiction, despite the negative consequences, find it difficult to renounce gambling.

Addictive potential of the games

The addictive potential of the games is based on the way the games are built and their availability. The gameplay of most games of chance is fast and thus creates a certain kick. The games also create illusion that the player can control them and stay in control. If the player loses, the result is often tight and tempted to try again. Instead of real money is often played with substitute values, eg. As chips or points. The relation to the real value of the money is lost in this way.

The addiction is also supported by the fact that there are many opportunities to play. With the gambling offers on the Internet, playing has become accessible to everyone anyway. With the exception of Schleswig-Holstein, online gambling is prohibited in Germany. But it is no problem for German players to gamble on the internet via the internet. Sportsbooks and online poker are especially popular.

Gambling Addiction: Examinations and Diagnosis

Gambling addiction is a serious disease that can have far-reaching negative consequences. It is therefore crucial for the further course, to seek help in time when it is found in themselves or relatives signs of gambling addiction. In addiction counseling centers, at your family doctor or even in addiction clinics you get help and information about gambling addiction.

The first conversation

A gambling addiction can not be determined by a physical examination, but only through discussions and special questionnaires. In addition to a detailed conversation with the gambling addict, it can also be helpful to interview the relatives. This gives the specialist a comprehensive picture of the situation.

As part of the initial examination, the doctor or psychotherapist could ask the following questions:

  • Have you ever gambled away all the money they had?
  • Do you feel an inner urge to pursue gambling?
  • Have you ever lied to friends or family about your gambling?
  • Is it hard for you to stop after losing a game?

If there is gambling addiction, the doctor or therapist can use targeted questions to determine how addictive the addiction is. Gambling addiction often occurs with other addictions or mental disorders. For an exact diagnosis, the doctor therefore checks whether there are any other disorders. This information is important for the following treatment.

Diagnosis: pathological gambling

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV), at least five of the following criteria apply to the diagnosis of gambling addiction:

Gambling addicts

  • mentally constantly engage in gambling
  • increase their stakes to feel the desired excitement
  • try again and again to control or stop the game
  • trying to get out of gambling makes you uneasy and irritable
  • play to distract themselves from their problems and their negative mood
  • continue playing even after losing money
  • lie to other people to hide their game problems
  • act illegally to continue funding their games
  • jeopardize or lose important relationships, job or future opportunities due to playing
  • hope other people will provide you with money

There are many tests available on the internet to help you assess addiction. However, an online gambling test can never replace a specialist's diagnosis. If you suspect a gambling addiction, you should therefore contact a specialist.

Gambling addiction: treatment

All important information on the treatment of gambling addiction can be found under Gambling addiction therapy.

Gambling Addiction: Disease course and prognosis

A gambling addiction is very different and is also dependent on gender. Men, in contrast to women, are in great danger of becoming gambling addicts even as young people.

As a rule, gambling addiction is a stealthy process. At the beginning it is just a nice pastime. The attachment to gambling, however, is getting stronger. Over time, the addiction develops so much momentum that the player completely loses control over his play behavior. Longer seasons and higher stakes are a clear warning sign of addiction.

Prognosis of gambling addiction depends on the severity and consequences of addiction, treatment options and motivation of the person affected. If there are other addictions or mental disorders, this complicates the therapy. However, support from friends and family can have a positive impact on development. Generally, as with other diseases, the earlier the gambling addiction The better the chances are to overcome them.


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