A focus group study of predictors of relapse in Electronic Gaming Machine problem gambling, Part 1: Factors that ‘push’ towards relapse

Abstract

This study aimed to develop an empirically based description of relapse in Electronic Gaming Machine problem gambling. In this paper the authors describe part one of a two part, linked relapse process: the ‘push’ towards relapse. In this two-part process, factors interact sequentially and simultaneously within the problem gambler to produce a series of mental and behavioural events that ends with relapse when the ‘push’ overcomes ‘pull’ (part one); or as described in part two, continued abstinence when ‘pull’ overcomes ‘push’. In the second paper, the authors describe how interacting factors ‘pull’ the problem gambler away from relapse. This study used four focus groups comprising thirty participants who were gamblers, gamblers’ significant others, therapists and counsellors. The groups were recorded, recordings were then transcribed and analysed using thematic, textual analysis. With the large number of variables considered to be related to relapse in problem gamblers, five key factors emerged that ‘push’ the gambler towards relapse. These were urge, erroneous cognitions about the outcomes of gambling, negative affect, dysfunctional relationships and environmental gambling triggers. Two theories emerged: (1) each relapse episode comprised a sequence of mental and behavioural events, which evolves over time and was modified by factors that ‘push’ this sequence towards relapse and (2) a number of gamblers develop an altered state of consciousness during relapse described as the ‘zone’ which prolongs the relapse.

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