Behavioral experts believe that there are three conditions that make it conducive for a person to go from a casual gambler to a pathological one. The first condition is being in a vulnerable state, usually with the person feeling guilt, depression, or helplessness. These feelings make it easy for the person to see gambling as a means of escape or a means to access feelings of victory, joy, and vindication, which are the reverse of what they previously felt.
The second condition is the person having a high capacity for deceiving his or her self. As such, the feelings of victory, joy, and vindication, or whatever satisfaction derived from gambling, are easily reinforced against the investments of time and money made in the activity. A person with a highly developed sense of self-deception is also able to continually fool his or her self that gambling is and can be the answer to all problems. This capacity for self-deception may also be the reason for the usually compulsive optimism exhibited by pathological gamblers.
Moreover, a last condition required for the transition to occur is for the gambler to be in a society where gambling is seen as something of value. This condition is far too easily met, with people anywhere in the world seeing a windfall as a blessing to a lucky man who deserves their awe and respect. This culture is also cultivated inside gambling avenues like casinos and arcades. There, the bright lights, well-dressed gamblers and attendants, and even the obnoxiously loud congratulatory alarms on slot machines or the constant applauses from fellows at the poker table encourage a sense of respect for gambling and the winning gambler.
However, biological experts, who see psychological disorders as something rooting from innate characteristics instead of environmental ones, were able to identify a differentiating chemical in the body of pathological gamblers. Norepinephrine, a brain chemical excreted when the person is under stress or is aroused, is significantly lower in pathological gamblers than casual gamblers. This may be the reason why pathological gamblers continually expose themselves to the thrill-seeking, high-risk gambling behavior: to increase norepinephrine in their bodies. However, such claims to physiological causes for pathological gambling have yet to be proven or disproven.
The Extent of Damage
The first victim to gambling addiction is the gambler himself. The addicted gambler, because of the loss of mental lucidity to judge his acts rightly, may make decisions to put his or her life at stake. Simple physiological neglect like choosing to use money on gambling than food or even forgetting the need to eat or drink may result from gambling addiction. Moreover, the pathological gambler may put his or her self at risk of committing illegal acts in order to sustain his or her addiction. This may lead to incarceration or payment of civil damages, the latter he obviously is already incapable of doing.
An addicted gambler may act irritably around family and friends, lie to and steal from people he or she knows, and be unable to fulfill his or her responsibilities at work and at home. This may result in the gambler losing all the significant relationships he or she may share with other people.
Other people may also suffer from the gambler’s addiction. Friends and family may experience intense psychological and emotional damage from being in contact with an addicted gambler. The repercussions of the bad financial decisions that the pathological gambler may make may also fall on the shoulders of his or her family to bear. This is commonplace with many pathological gamblers willingly gambling away their life savings, houses, and cars believing they will be able to chase away their losses and regain their family’s fortune.
Gambling addiction does not affect the lone gambler who decides to swindle his life away. Usually, there is an entire social fabric which is broken and destroyed. Unbeknownst to many, greater society also falls ill in the face of pathological gambling. In the United States alone, an annual figure of $5 million is lost annually, and a compounded $40 billion lost resulting from social services, reduction in productivity, and defaulted loans by creditors.
Costs from social services arise from families of gamblers who lose all they have and turn to the government in order to survive. Also, many of these gamblers commit illegal acts, requiring increased expenditure in the legal and prison system to try and detain the gamblers who have crossed the line. The reduction on productivity stems from pathological gamblers quitting their jobs or keeping their jobs but performing poorly. This creates an impact in the expected productivity the entire country is projecting, especially because this expected productivity defines the returns the country can expect to give back to the people in the form of wages and welfare. The situation wherein creditors default on loans occurs as pathological gamblers begin losing all they own to casino moguls, leaving them without the financial capacity to fulfill other financial obligations they may have with other creditor institutions. Businessmen running casinos also rack up defaulted loans when these addicted gamblers continue to play despite their incapacity to back up their bets with genuine financial assets.