Episodic cessation of gambling: A numerically aided phenomenological assessment of why gamblers stop playing in a given session

Abstract

The topic of permanent cessation of gambling behavior has received increased attention as the rates gaming (and pathology) increase with accessibility and legalization. Despite this increased attention there is a paucity of research on why people stop gambling in a given session, i.e. episodic cessation. We propose that the study of first-person experiential accounts of why gamblers stopped engaging in play within a given session will shed light on the progression and maintenance of wagering behavior. Using numerically aided phenomenology, we systematically examined accounts of episodic cessation. In doing so, we were able to identifying recurrent themes and then clustering these accounts according to similarities in theme profiles. People reported that episodic cessation occurred because they had lost all their money or because they were forced to (Cluster I), a sufficient amount of money had been won or lost (Cluster II), and a priori limits on wins or losses had been reached (Cluster III). As predicted, gamblers with maladaptive reasons for episodic cessation (Cluster I and II) reported more illusory perceptions of control and negative attitudes toward treatment seeking than those who engage in responsible gambling behavior (Cluster III). Moreover, illusions of control mediated the effect of cluster membership on attitudes toward treatment seeking. The findings of the present research help to integrate recent studies of gambling progression and maintenance.

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