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There are no known biological causes of pathological gambling disorder. Some studies have found interesting differences between compulsive gamblers and the general population on the biological level, but none that are thought to be an actual cause of pathological gambling. Many people, however, have significant psychological causes for excessive gambling. They may use gambling as an emotional escape from depression; this pattern appears more often in females with the disorder than in males. Some people who are pathologic gamblers are seeking the mood alteration associated with gambling— specifically the excitement and energy that they find in the activity— more than the money involved. In other words, the person with the disorder is reinforced by an emotional "high" rather than by the money itself. Some researchers have found that males diagnosed with pathological gambling disorder were more likely to have
Other theories about the causes of pathological gambling emphasize cognitive distortions rather than mood problems. Pathological gambling has been associated with dysfunctional thinking patterns; many people with this disorder are highly superstitious or believe that they can control the outcome of events when they are gambling. Many people diagnosed with the disorder also have distorted beliefs about money, tending to see it at the same time as the source of all their problems and the answer to all their problems. Patients diagnosed with pathological gambling disorder have an increased risk of either having or developing histrionic, narcissistic, or borderline personality disorder.
One social change that has been linked with the rise in the number of adults diagnosed with pathological gambling disorder in the United States is the increased availability of legalized gambling.
Author Info: Tish Davidson A.M., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Mental Disorders, 2003This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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