Gambling Addiction - Causes And Prevention

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Gambling Addiction - Causes And Prevention
Gambling Addiction - Causes And Prevention

Video: Gambling Addiction - Causes And Prevention

Video: Gambling Addiction - Causes And Prevention
Video: Medical Facts Behind Gambling Addiction 2023, September

Gambling Addiction: What Is It?

Whether roulette, blackjack or slot machine - gambling is an occasional pastime for some people. In addition to casinos and the like, the Internet now also offers a platform for this. Unfortunately, under certain conditions, gambling can lead to a disease: gambling addiction (pathological gambling). Machines have the highest potential for addiction. Men are usually more “willing to play” than women…


  • Continue reading
  • more on the subject
  • Advice, downloads & tools
  • Creeping start
  • No control over gaming behavior
  • Stages of gambling addiction
  • How does gambling addiction arise?
  • Caution risk of suicide
  • Prevention - measures for Austria

Creeping start

Most of the time the addiction is not there from one day to the next, but develops gradually. If you recognize signs of gambling addiction early on, you can take better countermeasures. In the beginning it is often not difficult to hide your gambling addiction. Neither those affected nor those around them immediately notice the “lurking” danger. The transition from pure entertainment to addiction is fluid. In Austria, according to the first Austrian gambling prevention study (Kalke, 2011) - based on the year 2010 - a total of 1.1 percent of adults (14–65 years) of the total population are affected. Of these, 0.7 percent meet the criteria for diagnosing pathological gaming, 0.4 percent can be identified as problem gamblers.

The primary regulatory competence for gambling in Austria lies with the Federal Ministry of Finance. The website of the Ministry of Finance provides information on gambling law. In addition, the Federal Ministry for Social Affairs, Health, Care and Consumer Protection is involved in health issues.

No control over gaming behavior

If players lose control of their behavior, they can no longer control whether they want to play or not. Problematic behavior when gambling often has serious consequences not only for those affected, but also for those around them (family, etc.).

To hide the gambling addiction, lies and excuses are made up. It must not come to light that you have just gambled away your entire salary, for example. In addition, playing becomes the focus of life, other interests and people close to you are neglected. The addiction usually also leads to the fact that the financial existence is threatened.

Stages of gambling addiction

In general, three stages can be distinguished:

Stage 1: positive beginning (entry phase)

At the beginning, gambling experiences are usually gained through leisure activities. After the first wins, positive feelings set in. The game continues to win more. Frequent profits in particular increase the risk of becoming addicted. The profit is seen as personal success (“It's so easy to get money”). The stakes increase, the risk increases.

Stage 2: critical habituation (loss phase)

At this stage, the frequency of the game increases. The stake is getting higher. There are significant financial losses. Problems are hidden by playing. Those affected begin to hide their behavior and borrow money. Various conflicts arise, for example in the family, at work.

Stage 3: The addiction (desperation phase)

Gambling becomes a compulsion. The stake is now at a maximum: all your property can fall victim to the game. However, those affected are convinced that they can regain these losses. Lies pile up. The line to criminal behavior (e.g. fraud) due to financial constraints is sometimes exceeded. The players have lost control of their behavior, they feel like they are being remote-controlled. Promises to stop playing can usually not be kept without professional help. Feelings of guilt and self-contempt increase.

How does gambling addiction arise?

Different factors favor the path to gambling addiction. On the one hand the “effect” of the game itself, on the other hand also the social environment. Personality traits also play a role.

In the wake of gambling

The game of chance itself has properties that promote addiction. These include:

  • Not using money directly, but tokens or virtual currency, reduces the threshold.
  • The atmosphere of the environment, for example in the casino, enables full concentration on the game and is motivating in this regard.
  • A short payout interval (point in time between bet and payout) promotes the hiding of losses.
  • If you win again and again, a learning effect quickly sets in that profits are possible and that it is likely that they will be influenced.
  • Gambling is sometimes combined with other interests, e.g. sports betting, this increases the appeal.

In addition, gambling itself has a direct psychotropic effect, via the brain metabolism on the psyche. Gambling has a direct effect on the release of neurotransmitters in the brain (including the so-called reward center). These effects can be stimulating or relaxing. Often the rapid change between tension and relaxation is experienced as pleasant or pleasurable. Profits can trigger euphoria and feelings of power. Concentrating on the game also lets you forget worries etc.

Influence of the environment

The more available games of chance, the more frequently they are used. A wide range that is heavily marketed makes it easier to slide into addiction. In addition, money is very important in our society. The dream of easy money can be very seductive here.

Personal factors

First of all: "The typical gambling personality" does not exist. However, personality traits can be defined that can have a beneficial effect on addiction, for example:

  • increased impulsiveness,
  • decreased self-esteem,
  • Problems to manage conflicts,
  • Tendency to depression or anxiety disorders,
  • other addictions e.g. alcohol, drugs,
  • Migration background as well
  • narcissistic personality traits or personality disorders.

In addition, gaming itself leads to changes in personality, which have a hardening effect on behavioral addiction to gambling. The brain processes near-wins very much like wins. In other words, these are also rated as a success. Losses are less memorable than gains.

Magical thinking

As addiction develops, rational ways of thinking take a back seat in favor of magical thinking. In this case, information is perceived in a distorted manner, and alleged control beliefs (power and influence on the course of the game, “lucky streak” etc.) prevail. Another characteristic of gambling addiction is that those affected expect to have to win after a few losses. The principle of chance is misinterpreted. These processes take place during gambling. Apart from that, people who suffer from gambling addiction can usually continue to apply rational thought patterns well.

Online gambling makes the path to addiction easier

Online gambling has some characteristics that can lower the inhibition threshold to play and encourage addiction. These include:

  • Availability around the clock.
  • Easier anonymity.
  • Higher payout rates.
  • You play against other people, not the bank.
  • Consumption of large amounts of alcohol or illegal drugs is easier.
  • Playing on several poker tables etc. is possible at the same time.
  • The game can be “sniffed” through simulations without the use of money.

These supposedly seductive features of online gambling can be the beginning of a very unfortunate course and lead to pathological gambling, which is associated with many problems.

For more information on the development of addictive behavior, see Risk and protective factors.

Caution risk of suicide

People who suffer from a gambling addiction are at a greatly increased risk of suicide. You can find information on suicide prevention for those affected and their families on the suicide prevention portal

Prevention - measures for Austria

The "First Austrian Study on the Prevention of Gambling Addiction" was carried out between 2009 and 2011 by the Center for Interdisciplinary Addiction Research (ZIS) at the University of Hamburg. The results can be read on the BMSGPK website. On the basis of the study, preventive measures were defined for Austria, including:

  • Strengthening the protection of gamblers - also in the field of youth protection (see also Gaming Machine Ordinance 2011),
  • registration of all visitors to places where gaming machines are in operation,
  • Training of the supervisory staff so that they can recognize problematic games in good time,
  • strict age controls,
  • Strengthening addiction prevention in schools as well
  • Education about the clinical picture.