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Gambling addiction: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Gambling addiction: symptoms, diagnosis and treatment

Gambling addiction or ludomania (“ludus” – a game, L.) – is a pathological addiction to gambling, belonging to mental disorder. According to International System of Disease Coding, ludomania has the code F63.0. This disorder appears in fixed intention to repeat episodes of taking part in gambling, what predominates in the addict’s behavior. Interpersonal relations and social duties take by that a back seat.

Ludomania shouldn’t be confused with gambling for the sake of gaining profit. The gambling addict doesn’t so much care of the result, but he is very interested in the process: playing game machine or roulette, the gambler experiences strong positive emotions. He considers himself a great personality and absolutely forgets about possible problems and troubles. The main symptoms of addiction to gambling are the following:

  • fixed ideas of gambling;
  • bad mood up to depression, when there is no opportunity to play;
  • intention to bid up the stakes and win more and more;
  • believe in the possibility to win all the money back, even in case of a big loss;
  • loss of self-control during the game;
  • financial debts, sale of personal possessions, theft;
  • sleep disorder;
  • constant stress.

Gambling addiction develops far more quickly, than some other dependences do; it takes several weeks only. Ludomania aggravates very fast. First even slight gains give reasons for further gambling. Misfortunes fuel ambitions and make the addict believe he will win the lost money back and win even more.

Pathological addiction to gambling practically always leads to big financial problems and later – to complete financial collapse. The addict tries to conceal his poor condition from relatives and friends; he becomes resourceful and lying. Gradually it comes to deformation of his personality; his system of values gets destroyed; the person is ready for everything only to continue his play. Ludomania leads to very severe consequences – up to crime and suicide.

There are 3 stages of forming gambling addiction:

1. Stage of winning (joy of getting money, optimism);

2. Stage of loss (thinking of the game, fixed ideas, less communication with relatives and friends, reservedness);

3. Stage of disappointment (hopelessness, moving off the society, panic, illegal activity, alcohol abuse, psychical disturbances).

Such dependence is dangerous, because even if the patient realizes his addiction, he can’t get rid of it with the help of his will only. The complex treatment is needed here, and the first step - is diagnosis. The psychologist or psychotherapeutist interviews the patient and reveals the risk factors of gambling addiction. The criteria of ludomania are the following:

  • Episodes of gambling happen more and more often;
  • It is impossible to stop playing during the game;
  • No desire to leave off such “hobby”, even in case of big losses;
  • Physical and psychical discomfort (a sort of withdrawal pains), if the addict spent several days without gambling.

Diagnosis of addiction to gambling includes testing for mental disturbances, for example severe depression or bipolar disorder, because for successful treatment for ludomania it is also necessary to heal other mental diseases. In this case the doctor prescribes antidepressants and tranquilizers, but this treatment should be provided strictly on an individual basis.

The cerebral cells of gambling addicts have changes in their biochemical content. Thus, they have decreased level of dopamine, responsible for normal emotional reactions. Visually it can be diagnosed as often winking and typically screwed-up eyes – so-called identification mark of gambling addicts. Such external peculiarity is also significant for establishing diagnosis.

Unfortunately there is no medicine against ludomania. The treatment boils down to psychological trainings – individual or group studies. Among pharmaceuticals many specialists prefer Naltrexone, used earlier in drug treatment. The results of investigations show: 75 percent of addicts experience decreasing of gambling behavior and normalizing biochemical balance in the organism. Among antidepressants Fevarin is considered the most optimal medicine for gamblers.

The treatment in Russia, as well as in other countries of the world, is anonymous. Not addicts themselves, but often their relatives come to ask for help. Although the success of treatment depends first of all on the patient’s intentions. Rehabilitation program against gambling addiction takes place in hospital environment, and the patient himself must decide, how much time he needs to stay at hospital. When the addict is sure, he will be able to refuse his addiction at liberty, he can be moved to home treatment, consisting in systematical drug administration.

According to statistics, only half of all gambling addicts, who take the therapeutic cure, quit their evil passion once and forever. The rest of them start gambling at once or in a certain period of time. Therefore such people need help and assistance of close ones badly, as well as favorable atmosphere at home. The best remedy for decreasing the risk of relapse is new and useful hobbies, which will provide the former compulsive gamblers with positive emotions and return to them the appetite for life.

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