There are several reasons to include other addictions when thinking about gambling addiction:
While the nature of addiction varies between types (as well as between unique individuals) much of the research in substance and other behavioural addictions can throw a good light on the nature of addiction generally.
It seems, in particular, that neuroscience points to common factors across addictions, involving specific neurotransmitters and learned neural pathways.
Many with gambling addiction suffer one or more other addictions.
Addictions of all types are strongly related to specific diagnoses of mental disorders which precede or follow addiction, or which accompany addiction, or all three.
Research into gambling, medical and other professional knowledge and expertise, and public awareness of gambling addiction are relatively sparse compared with more well known addictions. What has been learned and known about the latter can inform ways of seeing gambling addiction.
Debates about alcohol, substance and some behavioural addictions have been ongoing in most cases much longer than current gambling debates. Much disagreement exists beteen professionals, lawmakers, industry, people affected by addiction and the general public. Overviewing these controversies helps place gambling in context as many of the issues are identical. Of particular interest is the extent to which focus has been upon individual ‘pathology’ with lesser attention piad to wider factors which contribute to addiction. In some ways, these debates reflect those in the field of general mental health where an individual is seen as the centre of attention to the detriment of studying social, economic and other wider contributors to mental distress.
The presence of stigma against addiction is best looked at with a broad view of all addictions.
The relative underfunding and research around gambling, and a lack of support services is best understood by examining addictions generally. This will suggest that gambling addiction is particularly under-resourced.
Evidence about what works and what does not work in addiction education – in formal education and public health campaigns – is available for substance addiction, and this can inform developments in gambling education. Although alcohol and drugs education has been around for a long time, there has been no uniform approach to implementing it. Some emerging evidence suggests what doesn’t work – for instance, one’off ‘lecturing’, ‘thou shalt not’ approaches – there is relatively litle evaluation and pointers to good practice. We’ll be discussing this more on our site.
The questions around industry funded research and education have been highlighted with alcohol. For instance, it is claimed that industry funded initiatives may avoid discussion of subjects which cause discomfort to the funders.
Local councils have responsibility for commissioning addiction services (including NHS and Third Sector*) and may be likely to treat addiction generically rather than by type of addiction.
While it is true that addiction can afflict anybody, whatever their socioeconomic background and status, there are strong correlations between different sub-populations. For instance, adults who had adverse childhood experiences are more prone to mental health disorders including addiction. Poverty and other disdvantages also correlate with the likelihood of addiction. Studies across the field of addiction can examine such correlations more fruitfully than framing addiction as simply an individual pathology.
There are no neat divisions between harmful habits, compulsive behaviour, things called addictions metaphorically (e.g. shopping addiction), psychological dependence on behaviours or substances (without addiction), repeated deep modes of distraction (such as immersion in television or other screen activities). Clinically diagnosed addiction develops over time (gambling addiction has only relatively recently been admitted to clinical definitions; some psychologists include ‘internet addiction’). Many ‘normal’ behaviours such as immersion in social media offer distractions from the world. Psychological relief and life patterns provide both escape and security, so perhaps extreme addiction can be formulated as part of ordinary everyday behaviour.