September 25, 2019
Gambling has many forms- online sports betting, casino games, lottery, bingo, slot machines, scratch cards, internet poker, and a host of other things.
Although it is a pretty acceptable form of recreational activity, there are those that are addicted to it. Gambling addiction is, in fact, already a psychological condition according to the DSM-V.
In today’s post, I will talk about the link between gambling addiction and the brain so that you can somehow understand what is going through a gambling addict’s mind.
It is a Behavioral Addiction
Gambling addiction or disorder refers to an uncontrollable urge to gamble without any regard for the consequences that may follow.
Problem gamblers have a difficult time upholding and embracing interpersonal relations and they also have a hard time dealing with their finances as well. As a result of their addiction, their physical, as well as their mental health can also be compromised too.
The term was actually introduced in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders 3rd edition. However, back then, it was still classified as pathological gambling and was grouped under impulse control disorders, much like pyromania and kleptomania.
It was only until the 5th and latest edition that the name was changed to gambling disorder and has been classified as substance-related and addictive disorders, which can include drug and alcohol addictions as well.
The reason why the disorder was lumped alongside alcohol and substance-abuse disorders is the fact that the same regions in the brain light up whenever we engage in gambling activities.
Aside from that, it was found that problem gamblers, as they are called, may also exhibit similar features to that of drug addicts such as exhibiting withdrawal symptoms, developing tolerance, unable to quit without intervention, and may even lead to the destruction of one’s life.
The problem with pathological gamblers is that to produce the same level of excitement, over time, their bets become bigger and bigger, which means that the risk is also getting higher as well, said John Grant, an addiction researcher.
He said that when people try to let go of their addiction, they will experience withdrawal and insomnia, irritability, and agitation may happen as a result of it.
It was also found out that problem gambling may actually run in the family as well. You could say that someone is already predisposed to gambling addiction long before they start gambling.
After countless studies on the subject, the researchers have found out that the same regions in the brain known as the reward system lights up the same way to that of substance-related disorders and alcohol addiction as well.
According to Luke Clark, a Psychologist, in a lot of studies, it is always found that the same brain regions light up whenever someone is exposed to gambling; much like if anyone is exposed to copious amounts of drug and alcohol.
Technically speaking, the Ventral Striatum is that reward region in the brain. When the subjects would engage in gambling activities, fMRI scans would make it apparent to the scientists which area of the brain gets affected by such activities.