Causes and risk factors

What are causes and risk factors for gambling addiction?

When contemplating why people gamble, it is important to understand that  there is usually no one specific cause for pathological gambling. Some potential  exceptions include the observation that some individuals who are given  medications that treat Parkinson’s disease or restless legs syndrome (including  pramipexole [Mirapex]) have been observed to develop impulse-control  disorders like compulsive gambling, shopping, or sexual behaviors. The theory about that connection involves the increased activity of the chemical messenger dopamine in the brain. Another example where compulsive gambling may have a single cause is in bipolar disorder since exorbitant spending, including in the form of compulsive gambling, may be a symptom of bipolar disorder.

Much more commonly, gambling addiction, like most other emotional conditions, is understood to be the result of a combination of biological vulnerabilities, ways of thinking, and social stressors (biopsychosocial model). There are, however, elements that increase the likelihood that the individual will develop a gambling addiction. Risk factors for developing pathological gambling include  schizophrenia, mood problems, antisocial personality disorder, and alcohol or  cocaine addiction. People who suffer from compulsive gambling have a tendency to be novelty seekers, feel disconnected (dissociated), relaxed, or aroused while gambling or playing video games. Individuals who have a low level of serotonin in the  brain are also thought to be at higher risk for developing pathological gambling  compared to others.