Gambling is entertainment, not a source of gains

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By Leliana Pârvulescu

The game represents a form of activity specific to the man, it is an element of the human nature. Also, it must be considered a fundamental stage of childhood, through which the child can satisfy certain needs necessary for the harmonious and positive development and the acquisition of new skills.
The game plays a major role in the development of the feeling of self-efficiency, of self-affirmation and in the formation of the child’s character. It can be measured by his own limits, he realizes his own qualities and potential, he perfects certain skills, such as creativity, imitation and change of roles. However, the game is not only a prerogative of the child, but it keeps holding an important role of compensation, of tension and aggression removal, even at an adult age. From this perspective, therefore, dominates the entertaining aspect and full of satisfactions by which the subject interrupts his daily routine. The dimension of the game becomes such an important component in the man’s existence, that it becomes legit to speak about homo ludens, the man that plays, as well as about homo faber, the man that produces, that demonstrates, in essence, his sapiens life and the essential dimension of making.
If the term game refers to any activity whose main purpose is the recreation and spending one’s free time, when talking about gambling, the player’s competence is no longer included, but rather faith and profit. This distinction can be expressed by the situation in which the chance of winning and the profit prevail. The game of the adults is considered, in its positive aspects, as an entertaining element, where we take refuge so as not to surrender to the frantic and stressful rhythms of the daily vicissitudes. However, sometimes the playful experience can become so enthusiastic, and omnipresent that it is nothing else than an oasis of happiness and perfection. Gambling may become pathological with alarming individual and social costs.
The exact cause of pathological gambling (compulsive behavior towards gambling) is unknown at present. Just like the cause of most of the psychiatric disorders, it is believed that the occurrence of pathological gambling addiction is related to the unfavorable interaction of the biological, genetic and environment factors (especially in what regards the relational, family, social and professional component).
However, what seems certain is the role of promotion of certain risk factors. The main elements that may increase the probability of becoming troublesome or pathological gamblers, with compulsive behavior, are related to the presence of other pathologies or psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety, depression, personality disorders (for example, border line personality disorder), alcoholism or abuse of substances, hyperactivity disorders with attention deficiency (ADHD) and compulsive behaviors.
Another favoring factor is related to age. It has been noticed that the most troublesome gamblers are in the age group between 20 and 50 years.
Men have a higher tendency of gambling and developing an addiction, than women. Women tend to be less attracted by gambling and to develop pathological gambling later in their lives, usually related to conditions of anxiety-depression, bipolar disorder, discontent, loneliness and social isolation. In general, women develop the addiction more rapidly than men.
The traits of personality, such as: competitive spirit, the tendency of working more hours a day without being necessary (workholism), agitation / hyperactivity, the tendency of getting bored more rapidly are other favoring factors for developing the compulsive behavior.
The persons having a compulsive behavior towards gambling are characterized by their incapacity of resisting to their desire of betting and trying gambles where there is a theoretical possibility of winning, with a rather modest risk or otherwise acceptable reported to the unique loss.
The gambler is driven for searching the same feeling more often, with a mechanism that may determine the addiction.
The propensity for pathological gambling may be exacerbated in times of difficulty and stress at their workplace (the loss or the deterioration of the work conditions, redundancy, retirement etc.) or in their family (divorce, mourning, the disease of a close relative etc.) or in cases of debut/aggravation of the untreated anxieties and depressive conditions.
In these situations, gambling becomes a form of temporary compensation for the dissatisfactions and preoccupations in other contexts. The temporary solution, however, of using the gambling as a escape proves to be inappropriate, causing additional relational, professional and economical problems, as well as an additional deterioration of the state of mind.
The risk a gambler may have is not only the uncontrolled loss of his economic resources and/or family resources, but also the renunciation to the normal daily activities, such as study or work.
This is the reason why the Responsible Gambling Association provides levels of assistance, with reference to the services of prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of the persons affected by gambling addiction.
For most of the compulsive gamblers, paradoxically, the purpose of the bet is not the gain itself, but rather the resulting excitement and the bigger the risk, the bigger the thrill, until it gets to the point of losing. Unlike them, the gamblers who stop when the loss becomes significant or who set a limited budget beyond which they shouldn’t pass, are able to keep the gambling within the entertainment limits.
Leliana Valentina Pârvulescu is a psychologist within the program Responsible Gambling developed by the Responsible Gambling Association.