The parallels between gambling addiction and drug addiction have been drawn by experts for decades, although whether or not behavioural addictions share similar characteristics to substance addictions has always been controversial. What is now unquestioned is that gambling behaviors can become compulsive, can lead to major financial and emotional problems and are treatable using similar approaches to the treatment of substance addictions. This has been repeatedly demonstrated by research and as a result, it is now fully recognised as an addictive disorder.
To meet the criteria for gambling disorder, a person has to have at least four of the problems identified below, within a 12 month period, in conjunction with “persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behaviour: “Needing to gamble with more money to get the same excitement from gambling as before. Feels restless or irritable when trying to reduce or stop gambling. Keeps trying to reduce or stop gambling without success. Gambling is frequently on the person’s mind – both reliving past gambling experiences, and planning future gambling events. Gambles when feeling depressed, guilty or anxious. Tries to win back gambling losses. Lies to cover up how much they are gambling. Loses not only money, but also relationships, their job, or a significant career opportunity as a result of gambling. Becomes dependent on other people to give them money to deal with financial problems that have been caused by gambling.
One of the features associated with gambling disorder is distortion in thinking. For example, like other addictions, denial is common. But unlike other addictions, people who develop gambling disorder are typically quite superstitious and those superstitions reinforce the addiction and belief in winning. Another pattern of distorted thinking that may occur in gambling disorder involves “chasing one’s losses”. Although gambling problems may seem trivial on the surface, in reality, they are anything but. One of the reasons that gambling disorder has become recognised is because of the severe consequences for individuals and their families. Not only do some people who develop gambling disorder literally gamble away everything they own and end up in crippling debt, but far more of them become suicidal than would be expected in the general population. In treatment populations, about half of those with gambling disorder have suicidal ideation and about 17% have attempted suicide.
THE MEDICAL BIBLE
Whilst the DSM 5 is written in the USA, it is widely utilised by the medical world here in the UK. So it’s kind of strange to ponder why a condition that has been officially in existence since 2013 is rarely mentioned in the UK. It’s strange to ponder why the regulator and the industry as a whole (largely) refer to the issue simply as problem gambling. It’s strange to ponder why the nuts of bolts of the disorder explains that treatment of the disorder with anti-depressants is not appropriate, yet is widely used as one of the primary treatments for patients. It’s strange to ponder why medical professionals haven’t been directed to the disorder when they treat patients. We invite everyone with an interest in this topic to read the nuts and bolts of Gambling Disorder as described in the DSM 5.
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR THE GAMBLING INDUSTRY
– What has been your safeguarding policy to deal with Gambling Disorder?
– What training from independent medical experts have the directors/owners had about Gambling Disorder?- How have your staff been trained to recognise traits of Gambling Disorder?
– Have you simply ignored the existence of Gambling Disorder?
– Have you simply relied on the term ‘problem gambling‘ as a generic term and ignored a mental disorder for 6 years?