Some problems with the concept of “gambling addiction”: Should theories of addiction be generalized to include excessive gambling?
- Cite this article as:
- Walker, M.B. J Gambling Stud (1989) 5: 179. doi:10.1007/BF01024386
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The phenomena of drug addictions are examined to determine whether the notion of addiction can be extended to the repeated ingestion of nonessential substances which are not drugs or to activities which are engaged in excessively. It is concluded that in neither case can the category of drug addiction be extended to include these other activities without losing the essential meaning ofdrug addiction. A new category of psychological addictions is defined as “a persistent behavioral pattern characterized by: a desire or need to continue the activity which places it outside voluntary control; a tendency to increase the frequency or amount of the activity over time; psychological dependence on the pleasurable effects of the activity; and, a detrimental effect on the individual and society.” While the heavy gambling of some gamblers may under certain circumstances meet these criteria, it is not clear whether the group selected by the criteria is the same or similar to the group diagnosed as pathological or compulsive gamblers. Furthermore, it is not clear that the activity of gambling involves psychological dependency — one of the listed criteria. Finally, if other prospective criteria, such as a withdrawal syndrome on cessation of gambling, are added, the numbers of problem gamblers who can be described as psychologically addicted will decrease further. Given that excessive gambling can be included as an example of a psychological addiction, it is concluded that not one of the general theories of addiction examined accurately describes excessive gambling as it is portrayed by empirical research.