Problem gambling

Problem Gambling Considered Impulse Control Disorder

Problem gambling is known technically as ludomania. In general terminology it is referred to as gambling addiction, but that is somewhat of a misnomer since addition in this case is not physiological, which is the correct use of the term, but rather psychological, which implies that this is more of an impulse control disorder. In all definitions of problem gambling, part of the requirement of such a diagnosis is that the gambling has to cause harmful or negative consequences to the player. Problem gambling can only be diagnosed in a patient if that patients’ behaviour is associated with both social and family costs.

Psychology itself is somewhat open to interpretation when considering the difference between a disorder and an addiction. Gambling addiction shows some similarities to substance addiction, which are what is used in the diagnosis, and these similarities mean that treatment of problem gambling should be conducted more on a cognitive level than treatment as a psychological disorder. This is actually quite an important distinction.

A Quick Fix Solution

Psychological disorders are considered to be a chemical imbalance at some level and therefore are often treated by psychiatrists using medication to redress those imbalances and thus alleviate the problem. This stems largely from a desire to be able to redress the burgeoning gambling problem with a one size fits all solution that would allow for large scale and sweeping treatment of the problem, and affliction, and enable people diagnosed as such to go through a standard treatment that would leave them cured. This is, however, an idealistic dream.

A Cognitive Association More Likely

Problem gambling is similar to substance abuse in many ways. The reason, really, that people become addicted psychologically to anything that is not physiological, is due to a cognitive association. In physiological addiction, as with certain drugs, the body ‘needs’ the drugs and drives this urge to receive more of the substance or else other physiological functions begin shutting down. This physical addiction, however, does not apply to gambling, because if the gambler is physically removed from the situation they will not suffer from and medical or physical withdrawal symptoms. Problem gambling is therefore a cognitive association that cannot be controlled.

Cognitive behavioural therapy is concerned with the alteration, or control, of these cognitive associations that have been built up. In the same way that simply considering a single term like ‘a red car’ will have different effects on different people. Some might associated a red car with fear as they were once knocked down by one, others may associate it with romance because a girlfriend used to drive one. Everyone will have a different cognitive association. With problem gambling, people that are not able to control themselves have associated some cognition with, generally, slots play. It is slots play that attracts 75% of problem gambling cases.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy

The thought of gambling, then, is what causes the urge to gamble. This thought, or cognitive association is caused by a mental process that makes the person experience some positive feeling that they associate with gambling. The treatment therefore is to find out exactly what that thought triggers in the individual and disassociate that emotion with gambling so that the urge is lowered and therefore controllable. This is, however, a more complicated approach because it means the person with the problem gambling needs to be treated as an individual, and a one solution for all will not apply.