Gambling addiction is a behavioural addiction and is defined as a recurring activity that cannot be controlled and is detrimental to the addict, his or her values, social, professional, economic and family obligations, and the violation of social norms and laws. It is referred to as pathological gambling, addictive gambling, forced gambling.
It is sometimes called a hidden addiction because, unlike other addictions, it does not cause symptoms visible in the environment and can be easily hidden. The diagnosis of this disorder is not determined by the type of the game played, but by the way of playing, which with time becomes a sense of life for an addict and the main life motivation.
Activity connected with playing is a dominant activity, which often leads to the loss of job, family, material goods and social marginalization. Regardless of the costs incurred, the addicted gambler returns to the game and the drive cannot be stopped.
The problem of pathological addiction is growing and although it is becoming more and more common, social awareness of the need to treat this disease, as well as of the forms of aid itself, remains marginal. It is estimated that over 380 thousand people may be addicted to gambling, and about 200 thousand are exposed to the risk of addiction.
It is believed that over 6 million people suffer and experience the negative effects of addiction of their children, parents, partners. It is dangerous that gambling initiation affects people at an increasingly young age.
In today’s world, the risk of gambling addiction is related to the preferred way of spending relaxing time and easy access to new types of gambling such as online or public places full of electronic games.
Gambling addiction is considered a chronic and incurable disease. This means that it is impossible for a gambler to return to safe gambling, and it will always get out of hand even if the interruption in gambling was relatively long.Abstinence from playing, even relatively long, is not evidence of cure or absence of disease.
Gambling addiction requires complex psychotherapeutic treatment (individual and family psychotherapy) and possibly including psychiatric pharmacological treatment. Similarly as in the case of alcohol dependence, there is also a mechanism of family co-dependence as a result of family member dependence.
It is believed that the 1990s was a period of increased addiction to gambling and computer games. A serious problem of on-line gambling has arisen worldwide. It is estimated that E-gambling in the world grows 20 million Internet users per month.Internet users spend over PLN 10 million a month on this purpose.
Recently, there has been an avalanche of growing addiction of children and youth to the Internet, including computer games and online gambling. It is known that the earlier you become addicted, the more difficult it is to quit.
Children and young people, who do not yet have a formed personality structure and become addicted to the dopamine high obtained by playing, are particularly at risk of serious developmental disorders and negative effects on their mental and physical health.
Despite the fact that children are completely overwhelmed by the Internet activity, most often their parents are completely unaware of the problem. Sometimes they boast about this way of spending time at home (“at least they are at home and do not walk around”), because they have an illusory sense of control over the child. Sometimes they are proud that the child wins money by playing poker online.
The mechanisms of denial and family dependency typical of addictions sustain the addiction in the child, who provokes the risk of emotional disorders, sometimes irreversible personality changes, and at the biological level – changes in the brain, resulting from stimulation of brain activity during gaming.
The problem of computer addiction and online gaming by young adults, who despite a good intellect do not finish their studies, do not work, do not have partnerships and social relationships, are isolated and lonely, do not have plans, ambitions, dreams.
Despite previous educational successes, and the relationships with the family are empty and superficial, or burdened with a high level of irritability, quarrels and aggression, is quite dramatic. They are usually dependent on their parents, and subsequent attempts to engage in any deliberate activity are unsuccessful.
Undiagnosed as having a problem with addiction are usually labelled by their loved ones as lazy, spoiled, carefree and irresponsible. Nobody is aware of the fact that for years (it happens that since middle school and even earlier) they have been deeply stuck in the clutches of addiction.
Despite their adult age, their emotional maturity is at the level of a teenager. They want them to be treated as adults, while at the same time their responsibility and behaviour are infantile, at the child’s level.