Gambling and Other Compulsions or Addictions
Addiction is not limited to biochemical substances such as cocaine, alcohol, inhalants, or nicotine. It can involve behaviors, such as gambling, which provide opportunities for immediate reward. Because of the fast feedback that occurs from the activity, gambling can quickly turn a pastime into a compulsive pursuit of reward that may lead to the neglect of other life goals and create harmful consequences, from the loss of large amounts of money to the disruption of important relationships.
Behaviors indicative of gambling disorder include:
- The need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement
- Restlessness or irritability when attempting to cut down or stop gambling
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to cut back or stop gambling
- Preoccupation with gambling
- Feelings of emotional distress lead to gambling
- Gambling losses are followed by attempts to make up for them
- Lying to conceal the extent of gambling
- The activity jeopardizes important relationships, work, school, or other obligations
- Financial desperation leading to borrowing money from others.
Other excessive behavior patterns—involving smartphone use, video game playing, Internet gambling, viewing pornography, even eating and shopping—are under study as behavioral addictions. While they provide the opportunity for ample immediate reward, it has not yet been determined that they meet all the criteria for addictive behavior. Many expert observers are especially concerned that frequent texting and social media use that young people engage in may not just displace other important activities but impede the full development of executive control centers in the brain. The number of activities conducive to behavioral addiction may be on the rise, as technology develops applications with shortened response loops and intensified reinforcers, diminishing the opportunity for thoughtful exercise of control.