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Addiction Gambling

From MayoClinic.com

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Addictions & Substance Use


Imbalances in the brain chemicals serotonin, norepinephrine (adrenaline) and dopamine may be factors in compulsive gambling.

These chemicals all are neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are the chemical messengers that enable nerve cells (neurons) to communicate. They're released into the gaps (synapses) between nerve cells to help nerve messages flow from one cell to another. If neurons don't produce enough of these chemicals, nerve messages aren't communicated effectively. Alterations in neurotransmission have been associated with a variety of other mental health problems, including addiction.

Serotonin is a chemical in the brain that plays a key role in regulating mood and behavior. Norepinephrine, a hormone released in response to stress, has been linked to arousal and risk-taking in compulsive gamblers. Brain cells release dopamine as part of the reward system through which you learn to seek pleasurable stimuli such as food and sex, and dopamine plays a role in developing addiction.

Risk factors

A number of factors increase your risk of a gambling addiction:

  • Other behavior disorders. People who gamble compulsively often have substance abuse problems and experience mood and personality disorders.

  • Age. The younger the age you begin to gamble, the greater the likelihood that you'll develop an addiction to gambling.

  • Family influence. If your parents had a gambling problem, the chances are greater that you will too.

When to seek medical advice

If your gambling has gotten out of your control, see your doctor for help or for referral to an addiction specialist. Your gambling has gotten out of control if:

  • It's affecting your relationships, your finances or your work life

  • You're devoting more and more time and energy to pursuing gambling

  • You're unable to stop or cut back on your gambling

The sooner you seek help, the greater your chances for an escape from your compulsive behavior and for a quicker return to normal.

Because denial is nearly always a characteristic of addictive behavior, it may be difficult for you to recognize a gambling addiction and to seek help on your own. It often takes family members, friends or co-workers to persuade a person with a gambling addiction to seek treatment.

 Compulsive gambling > 12 >

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