We look more closely at gambling addiction in relation to FOBTs and internet gambling at the section ADDICTION BY DESIGN?

We examine some aspects of addiction and psychology at HABIT OR ADDICTION? on our parent site, The Machine Zone. This provides an overview of how we can form habits or become addicted. Gambling addiction shares common features with any addiction.

David A.Porter outlines how the diagnostic ‘bible’ used by psychiatrists has come to include compulsive gambling as an addiciton:

The DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fifth edition) has recognized gambling as a potential behavioral addiction. Addiction or dependency is typically viewed as the physiological and psychological dependence on a chemical substance. Dependence is defined as needing progressively larger amounts of a substance to acquire the same effect that used to be experienced, a characteristic physiological and/or psychological syndrome that emerges in response to cessation of use, and compulsive use despite consequences. The concept of dependence is being increasingly applied to, or considered for, behaviors such as gambling, as well as shopping, sex, exercise, eating, and using electronic media. The DSM-5 notes that gambling is the only behavior that is currently included as a behavioral addiction (American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In the DSM-IV, (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, fourth Edition), pathological gambling was classified as an Impulse Control Disorder NOS (Not Otherwise Specified). In response to a growing knowledge base of the neurological basis of problem gambling, which has commonalities with addiction; pathological gambling was moved to the Addictive Disorder category (Reilly & Smith, 2013).

The DSM (5th and most recent edition) characterises someone suffering from gambling disorder thus:

Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:

  1. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
  2. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  3. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
  4. Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).
  5. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
  6. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
  7. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  8. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
  9. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

There are many examples on this site of personal experiences of gambling addiction. We’d like to just make some points here:

  • Gambling addiction is NOT a character flaw, a failure of will or morality. It is a serious mental disorder and recognised as such by psychiatrists and doctors. One of the many, often seemingly insurmountable, problems gambling addicts  face is that they are so often stigmatised as ‘bad’ even by those closest to them. They cannot explain to themselves or others why they act as they do. They feel a complete sense of isolation.
  • Gambling addicts are usually convulsed with shame and guilt. They understand deeply the harm they are doing to others such as their family.
  • Unlike substance addiction which attracts at least some sympathy and support from individuals and society at large, gambling addicts have much fewer sources of support.
  • Like all addictions gambling addiction can strike anybody, from whatever part of society. It has recently been estimated that online gambling addiction is associated very strongly with richer people. As an example, here a former army major talks about how he lost £750,000 through online gambling. He warns of an oncoming ‘catastrophe’ for young people if action is not taken. Although our focus is upon FOBTs, the online betting experiences can be identical. The UK government is currently looking at advertising, particularly on television, which leads people to online gambling opportunities.
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