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Addiction in America

Unlike other addictive disorders, pathological gambling is an impulse control disorder that does not involve the use of an intoxicating drug. It bears similar features to other addictive disorders, although it is not always obvious when someone is addicted to gambling. Numerous researches are being published, analyzing the nature of such compulsive behavior and proving it to be an addiction. Unlike drugs and alcohol abuse, gambling disorder is not detected at an early stage. Most people suffering from gambling disorder live in denial and do not seek treatment. As gambling can be a non-compulsive pleasure activity, many addicts find it hard to admit their problem. Its treatment is very challenging and takes much time.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), gambling disorder is a persistent and recurrent problematic behavior leading to clinical impairment or distress. The manual also provides the information on how to diagnose someone for the manifestations of gambling disorder. In addition, criteria used to detect a gambling addiction are provided to indicate the severity of the addiction. In early manifestation, individuals portray a need to gamble increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement. On the contrary, they become irritable when attempting to stop gambling and have made repeated unsuccessful efforts to fight the addiction. The addiction sharpens once in a while, subsiding between periods of gambling disorder for at least several months (Professionals, n.d.).

Persistent gamblers experience continuous symptoms, and the criteria are met for multiple years. They are often preoccupied with gambling and only do so when stressed. They are persistent in their gambling, although they lie to conceal the extent of their involvement with gambling. The disorder is severe because the affected individuals jeopardize all they have because of gambling. After years of gambling and spending all their money, they become dependent on others to provide monetary support to relieve financial situations caused by gambling. After analyzing Alissa’s gambling addiction based on the criteria provided by DSM-5, it is obvious that the young woman suffers from severe gambling disorder.

Her addiction is as a result of stress, and any attempts to stop her are met with irritation on her part. It has led to her losing thousands of dollars every year and made her turn to friends and relatives to sponsor her. Her gambling is persistent, and she will keep playing in the hope of hitting the jackpot even after winning. Her addiction is an attempt to feel safe from all the disappointments in her life. She is not afraid to lose the most important things in life, her boyfriend and support of her parents, to gambling.

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Although there is still not much evidence to prove that gambling addictions have any genetic factorization in them, there are some studies that indicate the existence of the latter.  The Twin Vietnam Era Registry is an approach to estimating the relative contributions of environmental and genetic factors to the pathological gambling. The results of the studies indicate that genetic factors contribute significantly to the formation of pathological gambling. Also, it is stated that gambling addiction can be caused by a genetic predisposition towards addictive behaviors. Moreover, winning and losing in gambling gives an individual a satisfying feeling created by the dopamine produced in the brain.

This addiction can be inherited from one or both parents. Other genetic factors that may expose one to gambling are gender factors, family history of gambling, personality or mood disorder, and substance abuse (Xian, Giddens, Scherrer, Eisen, & Potenza, 2014). In Alissa’s case, her addiction is fueled by her personality disorder. She suffers from low self-esteem and profound unhappiness. Her negative view of herself was caused by an accident she was involved in that left her face with scars.

At the same time, research shows that environmental factors play a huge role in the development gambling addictions. The Australian study was conducted on younger kids from disadvantaged areas to show the environmental impact on the likelihood for them to gamble (Slutske, Deutsch, Statham, & Martin, 2015). It also discusses the coinciding factors of genetics and environmental aspects affecting young individuals. Thus, the local area characteristics combined with genetic factors are associated with gambling involvement and disordered gambling. In addition, the Vietnam Twin Registry study outlines that environmental factors such as socioeconomic status play a significant role in problems with gambling. Therefore, it can be stated that Alissa’s economic status pushes her towards addiction. All attempts to find a job fail, bringing her to depression. However, at the same time, the environment in which she grew up in does not contribute to her gambling addiction, and the problem is rooted in her psychological trauma. She had a supportive family that was closely knit; however, she keeps her inner distress to herself and avoids sharing her feelings with her family and friends.

Gambling, like any other addiction, affects the families of the addicts. It leads to the loss of money, property and belongings of an individual and his/her family, in general. Moreover, families are affected emotionally in such situations, and it makes it difficult to solve the problem. The stress of gambling can sometimes cause health problems for both the person who gambles and his or her relatives. It should be also noted that this addiction can cause physical abuse in the family, and it leads to the breaking up of many households. The stress of trying to cope with gambling addiction can lead to burnout. Family members may often neglect themselves, focusing on the person with gambling problems.

Kourgiantakis, Saint-Jacques, and Tremblay’s review of thirty studies analyzes the issues that gambling addiction brings to families. It also talks about the importance of family involvement in recovering. Family involvement is extremely important in helping an individual to recover from the addiction. Also, the family members should also undergo therapy to help resolve the stress caused by the gambling addiction of their closest. For example, in the case of Alissa’s addiction, her family was stressed after discovering that she was addicted to gambling. They were financially challenged because they had to spend much money on her recovery (Kourgiantakis et al., 2013).

Kourgiantakis also stresses the importance of family involvement in treatment and therapy of individuals with gambling addictions. It is one of the most important aspects of treatment of such disorders. The author explains that family involvement is crucial because it provides the needed support to the individual (Kourgiantakis et al., 2013). Gambling addiction treatment is a long process, and most individuals quit before they have even begun. It is, therefore, important that the family shows support for the addicts and encourages them. Gambling treatment is the same as that of substance abuse but is longer. It focuses on rehabilitating a person as well as ensuring that he or she does not turn to gambling (Jamieson, Mazmanian, Penney, Black, & Nguyen, 2011). It involves a psychological analysis of the individual to determine the reason for gambling. The first step to recovery is relieving unpleasant and overwhelming feelings without gambling. Gamblers can also join group support for gambling addiction and problem gambling. Cognitive-behavioral therapy being applied in such cases focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors. Finally, the last step of the healing process is maintaining recovery from the addiction, which includes making a permanent decision to stay away from gambling and finding other constructive activities to replace it.

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As it has been already mentioned, Alissa’s gambling addiction is caused by low self-esteem. Thus, the young woman suffers from a psychological issue that can be relieved by the application of cognitive-behavioral therapy. First of all, she has to accept that she has a gambling addiction that needs treatment. Her family shows support, but it is the denial that hinders her from seeking treatment. DSM-5 explains that, in early remission, full criteria of gambling addiction are being applied. The results indicate that none of the criteria for gambling addiction have been met in three months but less than twelve months. In sustained remission, the full criteria of gambling disorder are present, and the results indicate that none of the criteria for gambling disorder are met during a period of twelve months or longer. These criteria help individuals with their addiction and serve as a step to recovery staying clean from gambling.


It is clear that gambling addiction, although newly added to the DSM-5, is a social and individual problem faced by the individuals and their families not only in America but also around the world. Thus, the given paper provided the definition, the genetic and environmental factors linked to the development of this condition, as well as the impact addiction has on families and possible avenues for treatment. Also, considering the analysis of Alyssa’s case conducted several weeks ago, integrating her story into the assignment has proved the importance and gravity of the issue. It is clear more research is needed to look deeper into gambling addictions and the possible genetic factors that could contribute to this type of addiction.