Autism and Gambling Addiction: Innate Tendencies

Subject: Psychology
Pages: 10
Words: 2855
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11 min
Study level: PhD


Many factors can influence human behavior. There are environmental factors that can be observed in-home or education settings and innate tendencies that have a natural base. Some debates take place concerning the importance of inherited and acquired characteristics in regard to human behavior. The supporters of the biological approach admit that genes, a person’s DNA, determine different human traits and behavior. The representatives of behaviorism do not reject the impact of genes but also underline the impact of the environment on human decisions and behavior. For example, a famous behaviorist, John Watson, claimed that he could educate any child regardless of his/her talents and create an expert in any sphere (Moore, 2011).

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The current paper aims at discussing two behavioral disorders taken from different types of settings, autism and gambling addiction, and explaining how each of them might have developed through the impact of the environment, or heredity, or both. The diathesis-stress model is used to explain the peculiarities of the chosen disorders and introduce the most appropriate treatment methods regarding the ethical, legal, individual, and socio-cultural issues. Autism and gambling addiction are two frequent behavioral disorders that influence human lives considerably, and it is necessary to understand if the setting may define treatment outcomes regarding the causes of disorders that may include heritable or environmental factors.

Behavior and Its Relation to Nurture and Nature

The attempts to separate nature and nurture as the main reasons for behavioral changes are constantly made and usually defined as unproductive or even impossible (Levitt, 2013). Craddock (2011) underlines that the majority of arguments about nurture and nature are completely outdated and naïve and defines human behavior as “the product of the genetic inheritance of an individual, expressed in the context of the environmental variables to which the individual has been exposed at all staged from conception, through foetal life, childhood, adolescence and adulthood” (p. 637). However, because of all these attempts to understand the connection between genes and behavior or the environmental impact, some researchers make themselves deprived of the possibility to think logically and consider the role of a human in this debate.

There is a suggestion that all people may be divided into orchids and dandelions. It is based on the fact that all people can be sensitive to the environment because of the biology of their nervous systems (Ellis, Boyce, Belsky, Bakermans-Kranenburg, & Ijzendoorn, 2011). Such assumption means that people are weak by their nature and remain to be dependent on many environmental factors. Human behavior depends on both factors; therefore, certain attention should be paid to the ideas developed in the spheres of psychoanalysis (where social upbringing and innate drivers matter), cognitive psychology (when innate mental structures are changed by the environment), and humanism (when psychical needs matter and a self-concept depends on society). Therefore, it is wrong to believe that behavior may be best attributed to one factor only. There is a chance that environmental factors and innate tendencies may have the same impact on human behavior, and it is necessary to investigate the interactions between nature and nurture to comprehend better the basics of human behavior.

The connection between behavior, nurture, and nature is a serious topic for discussion. It is better to rely on real examples and to choose two behavioral disorders taken from different settings, analyze their peculiarities, and consider this evaluation as a chance to understand what makes people behave the way they prefer to behave and how people can live with the disorders they have from birth or acquire with time.

Autism is a well-known developmental disorder of brain function that influences human actions, decisions, and ways of thinking. Gambling addiction is another mental health disorder that involves a burning need to gamble as a means to survive. It is also considered a psychiatric pathology and disease that is explained by the inability to control personal feelings (Suissa, 2006). This kind of disorder deprives people of the ability to control their behavior as soon as a chance to gamble takes place. The choice of these disorders can be explained by their different natures and the settings under which people can suffer from them. On the one hand, autism seems to be more dangerous and hard to deal with because of its innate nature.

People are usually born with autism. They cannot make choices. All they have is a mental problem that influences their behavior. However, people, who suffer from autism, cannot comprehend what kind of problem bothers them. On the other hand, gambling addiction may seem to be more dangerous because it engages in activities until some negative consequences take place. Gambling addiction is another form of behavioral disorder that is developed with time. Its main threat is its possibility to touch upon the life of any person at any age. In a short period, a healthy person may become dependent on a certain activity that becomes a kind of compulsion without which a life cannot be imagined, and that damages relations, daily functioning, and even health. The most dangerous aspect of such behavioral disorder is the inability of a person to understand and accept the fact of dependence. If there is no additional help or observations that can promote treatment in time, gambling addiction can be deadly dangerous.

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Genetic and Environmental Tendencies in Autism and Gambling Addiction

There is a strong thought that autism has a genetic predisposition, and the heritable risk factors may disrupt this gene function (Campbell, Sutcliffe, Ebert, Militerni, Bravaccio, & Trillo, 2006). Such innate tendency as the presence of mental or behavioral disorders in one or both parents serves as a solid basis for the development of some autistic features in a child. At the same time, researchers want to describe the role of environmental factors and the ways they may contribute to the development of dangerous autism-related characteristics (Aktevogt, Hanson, & Leshner, 2008). Toxins in the environment may be defined as one of the possible environmental factors that contribute to the spread of autism-related traits and change human behavior. However, such settings are not the only contributors to autism. An educational institution, a mental health clinic, or even a family may influence the development of autism. The development of autism as a behavioral disorder is a serious issue that has to be discussed regarding the type of disorder, the personal conditions of a patient, his/her family relations, and the abilities of the family to treat a person.

This disorder can be better developed through the impact of the experience and the environment a person gets access to. People with autism get a chance to be treated in special hospitals and medical centers by psychologists, who can choose the most appropriate treatment, create good conditions, and help to live life to its possible extent. It is wrong to believe that heredity is the only way that can influence the way of how people with autism can behave. Many cases prove that if a person, who suffers from autism, lives under the conditions he/she gets used to, is not disturbed by a variety of external factors, and can complete the same duties, he/she can cope with the challenges connected with autism (Altevogt et al., 2008). However, as soon as some changes, guests, or unexpected requirements take place, his/her behavior may be dramatically changed and become dangerous for this person and people around. On the one hand, the behavior of people with autism can be predicted and controlled. On the other hand, it is necessary to understand that people with autism may be compared to a bomb that can or cannot be exploded.

Gambling addiction is another kind of behavioral disorder that can be developed in its way. The idea that this disorder is not innate provides people with an opportunity that it can be treated, and people may get rid of it with time. However, there is also the thought that gambling involvement may be attributed to genetic and environmental factors (Vitaro, Hartl, Brendgen, Laursen, Dionne, & Boivin, 2014). The development of gambling addiction depends on such innate factors as impulsivity or the desire to explore objects that are new and unknown. Still, it is wrong to believe that if there is a person, who suffered from gambling addiction, in the family history a child will certainly get the same kind of addiction. Besides, gambling addiction can be based on communications with delinquent peers or the examples that are frequently demonstrated in the movies. In a short period, a human brain may undergo considerable changes and make the body take actions that are unethical, illegal, or socially disobedient such as hiding true emotions, increasing debt, thieving, or even killing to support gambling addiction. If autism is the disorder the outcomes of which can be predicted and prevented because the activities are taken unintentionally, gambling addiction is the disorder that creates dangers and leads to unpredictable consequences.

Diathesis-Stress Model

Many models can be used to analyze behavioral disorders, and the diathesis-stress model is one of them. Diathesis-stress models introduce a variety of ways on how to organize and analyze the existing external and internal factors and combine them with possible disorders and diseases (Orsmond & Seltzer, 2009). Regarding the impossibility to clarify if psychological problems like autism or gambling addiction are purely biological or pure environmental types of behavioral disorders, the diathesis-stress model is used to explain how heredity and experience (or environment) can work together on human minds. According to this particular model, people may be born with a particular genetic problem (like the patients, who suffer from autism). However, this model says that not all people with innate problems may suffer from a mental illness. Some of them can live happy lives, meet their physical and psychological needs, and know nothing about the challenges of autism or financial troubles of gambling addiction. However, some people may have complicated lives and contemporary difficulties caused by the presence of environmental or biological factors that may lead to the development of a serious illness. The diathesis-stress model can help to understand how autism and gambling addiction can be developed using the presence of such concepts as diathesis, stress, and protective methods (Orsmond & Seltzer, 2009).

The first factor, diathesis, is based on the vulnerability to autism or gambling addiction. People may be born with autistic features and live in a family neglecting the problems caused by this disorder or be patients in special clinics where people with autism are regularly treated. Gambling addiction is a doubtful disorder. One group of researchers believes that gambling genes do not exist, and another group of researchers underlines the possibility of having a gene that transports the dependence on gambling on future generations. The second concept that should be regarded is the presence of stress in human life (Tanh, Chua, & Wu, 2011). Stress may be caused by various external factors like poor family relations, unexpected changes, or sudden decisions that lead to unpredicted outcomes. Autism and gambling addiction depend on stress considerably. However, the outcomes that can be observed in patients with these disorders may vary. Autistic people may start crying, running, or even hurting themselves or people around. Gamblers’ reactions to stress are hard to predict because they can quit gambling or start searching for more money to continue their activities. Life events like a death of a relative, short-term factors like dismissal or crisis, or even some minor daily routine problems like a quarrel with a family member or the inability to travel because of a poor financial situation may provoke gambling addiction. Autistic people suffer from stress in case they do not have access to the things and actions they prefer to do regularly.

Finally, the presence or absence of protective factors can help to prevent or develop a disorder. A protective social environment and professional support can help autistic people. Strong support of friends and family and healthy self-esteem maybe not be enough for a gambler; that is why serious professional psychological and social support may be required.

The analysis with the help of the diathesis-stress model shows that the development of autism and gambling addiction may be controlled by some external factors and predetermined by certain genetic traits. The combination of these factors proves the importance and seriousness of the identified disorders and the necessity to treat people with such mental and behavioral problems.

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The treatment plan for patients suffering from autism is not complicated and consists of several simple and definite steps. Because there are no definite cures for autism, people have to pass through some behavioral, family, and educational therapies and communications. Psychologists and specially trained nurses help to gain new skills and use the already got knowledge in practice. Family members provide the required portion of the support, understanding, and patience. Communications promote the necessary safe and protective environment. Regarding the problems and treatment methods that can be offered to autistic people, it is possible to say that human behavior depends on many external factors that have to be considered because of the presence of a single innate trait that is the predisposition to autism.

From an ethical point of view, each person with a disability deserves a right to live a normal and happy life. It is ethically incorrect to use, betray, or confuse people with autism. Special organizations and communities aimed at helping autistic people find support and cooperate with people, who have the same challenges. From a legal point of view, there are no serious problems that may be caused by autistic people. Americans try to make sure that every autistic person has someone, who may assist and control emotions. The individual considerations of every person with autism depend on the stage of the disorder. If a person is not able to understand what happens, it is hard to talk about any kinds of considerations of his/her behavior. If a person has slight autistic problems and continues living in an ordinary world with some people around, then the person should comprehend his/her duties and responsibilities and use the abilities to be helpful to society. As a rule, the majority of nations and cultures accept the idea of autism as something that cannot be treated but has to be accepted. Still, there are some cultures where autism is defined as something unnatural or a kind of god’s curse. People with autism are always treated differently, with more compassion that helps them to stay safe and comfortable.

Gambling Addiction

In comparison to autism that is caused by the presence of a specific gene in an organism, gambling addiction is usually caused by some environmental factors. That is why one of the possible ways to treat gamblers is to offer antidepressants and stabilizers that can help to cope with psychological and emotional instabilities. The behavior of people, who are addicted to gambling, is dangerous sometimes. That is why psychotherapy is offered as a possible solution to comprehend the ethical and individual considerations.

On the one hand, it is ethically incorrect to use the weaknesses of gamblers and achieve some personal goals or satisfy needs. On the other hand, addicted gamblers are ready to break millions of ethical considerations and rules of interpersonal relations to satisfy their desire to play and win. As a rule, addicted gamblers have several enemies and people, who cannot accept such a style of life. Many people try to avoid communicating with such people because they are afraid of being used by gamblers. There are also people, who are ready to break the rules, use the weakness of a gambler, and get involved him/her in other similar activities to have some financial or personal benefits. Usually, gambling addiction is characterized by illegal activities that poorly developed social relations. Gamblers are left alone with their intentions to win. If addicted people do not find the powers to address for help or do not have a person, who can help to cope with the problem, the last thing that they can lose is their lives.


In general, properly chosen settings affect the way of how people can be treated and cope with their behavioral disorders. Autism and gambling addiction are two commonly known behavioral disorders that may be observed in many Americans and other people around the globe. Some people are ready to address for help and rely on the suggestions offered by professionals. Some people do not have enough power to ask for help. They try to cope with their problems individually. The results of such self-treatment are usually frustrating.

Regarding the findings and research made to evaluate the relations between nature, nurture, and behavior, it is possible to say that human behavior is best attributed to the environmental factors and skills that can be acquired with time. Even if such innate tendencies like autistic genes may influence the way people behave, a person may have a chance to improve his/her behavior using an appropriate environment and the support of people around. That is why it is better to solve behavioral problems and disorders in special organizations, medical health clinics, and even educational institutions where the experience and knowledge of other people can be used.


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Vitaro, F., Hartl, A.C., Brendgen, M., Laursen, B., Dionne, G., & Boivin, M. (2014). Genetic and environmental influences on gambling and substance use in early adolescence. Behavioral Genetics, 44(4), 347-355.