I Come from a Gambling Family, Should I Be Gambling Too?

Is your memory of adolescence peppered with images of gambling in some shape or form? Would you say that you come from a family of gamblers? What even constitutes a gambling family in the first place?

Your family tree needn’t trace back to Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel and Meyer Lansky to qualify in this category. It’s generally not so obvious. A family legacy in gambling can be marked in many ways. Yours may have hosted weekly poker nights, or regularly stuffed lottery tickets into envelopes for birthdays and stockings at Christmas. Your clan may have taken annual trips to Vegas, Reno, or AC where a parent slipped you a quarter to jam into a one-armed bandit when floor security wasn’t looking. An uncle may have asked you to pick a horse when at what you innocently thought was farm for thoroughbreds.

Or, maybe it is obvious.

Whatever the case may be, it seems that gambling was normalized in your household and was a part of your upbringing. Conscious of this fact (you are reading this, after all) you can’t help but wonder if you are at risk of the mental health crisis you’ve been hearing so much about. It’s a good thing to question, even if the answer is nuanced. Please keep reading.

3 Things to Consider Regarding Your Risk of Compromised Mental and Behavioral Health When You Come from a Family of Gamblers

Have Any of Them Struggled with Gambling Addiction?

While gambling addiction, more aptly labelled as problem gambling, wasn’t in the press when you were growing up like it is today, you probably know if one or more of your family members struggled with it. Again, if you’re reading this, you strongly suspect that this has historically been the case with a grandparent, uncle, aunt, and/or parent.

A history of gambling disorder in your family infers that you may be predisposed to having a complicated relationship with the activity. Molecular genetic research has identified specific gene variations that correspond to neurotransmitter (namely serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine) dysfunctions that are associated with problem gambling. Although more research needs to be done to account for gender-specific differences, findings generally support that genetic factors do play a role in the development of problematic gambling behavior. In laymen terms – gambling addiction may be inherited. Consequently, you should proceed with caution and avoid it altogether if the following are evident in your lineage.

Are There Other Family Histories Regarding Mental Health?

There are a number of mental and behavioral health issues/disorders that cooccur with problem gambling, and may indicate enhanced vulnerability. Research has uncovered that there are hereditary influences on these disorders. For example, Stanford Medicine reports that in most cases of depression, around 50% of the cause is genetic. Meanwhile, genetic influences explains anywhere from 60–85% of Bipolar Disorder risk. Many are surprised to learn that genetic risk factors may account for up to 30–40% of the heritability of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). It seems that we as a human race face an uphill battle when it comes to outpacing genetic predispositions as they apply to mental health.

In the same manner that a physician asks one to consider a family history of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes when making lifestyle choices, we suggest that you do the same for the following mental and behavioral health concerns as they cooccur with gambling disorder:

  • Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD)
  • Anxiety
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Bipolar Disorder (BP)
  • Depression
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD)
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
  • Schizophrenia

Has Gambling Caused Damage in Your Childhood Household?

Even if you can’t outright conclude that family members have suffered from gambling disorder, you will be able to identify if it had a negative impact on your household when growing up. Was your family frequently in debt? Were there notable instances of verbal and/or physical abuse? Was there separation or divorce? Were you and/or siblings often neglected? Was there criminal activity? All of these are consequences, signs, and symptoms of problem gambling that are likely not a coincidence in a gambling family.

If gambling had caused damage to your family household, learn the lesson from your generation prior and initiate change.

Break the cycle that has perpetuated and plagued your lineage. Even if you don’t exhibit mild, moderate, or severe gambling disorder yourself, you may find comfort in speaking with a counselor who knows exactly what you’re feeling. Moreover, there is family group therapy for gambling disorder available on our virtual platform, should you want to get help for members who require intervention.

Questions About Gambling Support Services for Yourself and/or Your Family?

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


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Gambling Family