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Pathological gambling (PG), the medical term for gambling addiction, has been included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III), where it is listed there as an impulse-control disorder. In effect, that raised gambling addiction from a purely social problem to a medical one.
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May 25, 2023
In the final season of the critically-acclaimed show The Sopranos, the main character - a New Jersey mafia boss by the name of Tony Soprano - is on a losing streak. Literally! The scene opens with the sound of a spinning roulette wheel and an impulsive bet that spirals out of control.
Sports gambling makes it to the list of illicit revenue streams that Tony Soprano’s unstable finances will have to deal with. Between handling loan sharks to pay the vig and falling out with his wife for not wagering the house on a "sure thing", Tony is clearly not in his element.
The world has changed quite a lot since the show first aired in 2007, but the devastating effects of addictive gambling remain the same.
Cinematic depictions show us but a glimpse of the world that lies behind the glitz and glamor of casinos, private playing rooms, and high rollers. Gambling, like all addictions, leaves behind it a trail of destroyed lives, wrecked impulses, and fractured relationships. From the era of mob-run bookies to the ever-expanding net of online betting, the world of gambling has come a long way.
Statistics show that over a quarter of the global population, or roughly 2 billion people, have gambled at some point in their lives. No surprise then that gambling is one of the largest industries in the world. The global gambling market grew from $449 billion in 2022 to over $700 billion by January 2023, according to one report.
New-age technologies are fueling further interest in online casinos, entertainment betting, electronic gaming machines (EGMs), and so on. The novel and unregulated nature of cryptocurrencies have also been a factor in fuelling easier access to gambling across the world.
It was a watershed moment for psychologists and the medical community at large. For gambling addicts and their family members, this was an opportunity to correctly assess the nature of the problem and move toward recovery with adequate planning and guidance.
The DSM diagnosis points to “recurrent” and repeated problematic gambling that leads to severe distress and affects an individual for a sustained period. Some of its indicators are:
The mainstreaming of public health concerns around gambling addiction has made it more common for those affected by it to seek lasting solutions. Just as it is in the case of drug use or alcoholism, treatment for gambling addiction must be holistic and aligned to each person’s unique circumstances.
Whether one gambles for leisure, social bonding, or financial incentives, no one plans on becoming a serial gambler and developing an addiction. Financial damage and downturns in health and lifestyle are early symptoms of people moving from ‘social’ gambling to more organized and routine gambling activities. Unfortunately, there are more sinister repercussions.
A 2021 study at Oxford University in the UK found that high levels of gambling correlated to a 37% increase in mortality. More importantly, the study established that even low levels of gambling were associated with financial distress and poorer health.
An earlier study from Lund University in Sweden found that a person with a gambling addiction was 15 times more likely than others to take their own life. It also found that suicide rates among men between the ages of 20 and 49 increased 19 times if they had a gambling problem.
Prolonged gambling activity leads to harms not just at the individual level, but also at familial and societal levels. Emotional and financial problems inevitably seep into interpersonal relations and sow the seeds of discord. Anger and conflict arising from unpaid debts and strained communications often begin to affect families of gambling addicts rapidly.
There is evidence to suggest a relationship between gambling problems and domestic violence too. Problem gamblers are likely to be both victims or perpetrators of intimate-partner violence. The intense stress brought on by having large sums of money on the line can also lead to increased alcohol and drug intake, as well as angry outbursts at a spouse or immediate family member.
To avoid falling into the throes of a crippling addiction, one must be aware of the risk factors and predispositions that make them susceptible.
Problem gambling - or any other behavioral addiction such as gaming disorders or shoplifting addictions - create a series of bad decisions that can wreck personal and professional lives. Not everyone who happens to roll a die occasionally turns into a gambling addict. Some people are, however, more at risk than others owing to several factors:
Recovering from any addiction requires a holistic treatment philosophy. At Hollywood Hills Recovery, we’re committed to creating a homely and supportive environment that makes lasting recovery from addictions possible.
We are a premier addiction treatment and recovery center set amid the luxurious private hills of Los Angeles. Beyond alcohol and drug abuse, our team of expert professionals has deep experience in treating conditions like gambling addiction, sex addiction, and eating disorders.
Get in touch with a representative today if you or a loved one is suffering from any of these conditions.