Leliana Valentina Parvulescu

The uncontrollable craving or need of gamblers

By Leliana Valentina Pârvulescu
Psychologist within the Responsible Gaming Association

Many times, a player who has exceeded the limit of the experience of playing with pleasure, in the online environment or in the game room, faces a strong and inexplicable emotion that he cannot control, namely that of sitting in front of the screen. or to enter a gambling location. In the case of the psychotherapy activity that I carry out, since 2012, within the Responsible Gaming Association, as a psychologist, I frequently encounter this phenomenon. The patient who has developed an addiction to gambling describes this need as something that grips him, something particularly hard, that presses him and that causes chest pain and the feeling that he can no longer breathe. All this stops when he starts playing or when he enters the game room.
It is indeed a complex mechanism called craving. The only chance for these patients to overcome this condition is to go through a psychotherapy program with a specialized psychologist, a long-term program that requires the involvement of the player and the family.

What is craving?
The English term craving can be translated as lust. Craving is an intense and uncontrollable need to play again, which the person fails to control and which becomes the number one priority. At that moment, for that person, playing again is the most important thing, more than work, than family, than loved ones, than self-protection. Craving is an unstoppable need rather than a desire. Desire is usually pleasant, craving, however, is not perceived as a necessity that cannot be postponed and must be satisfied immediately, at any cost. The person feels irresistibly pushed to satisfy this desire, even if he consciously does not want to. It is very important for the player to know how to make a difference and to understand how to position himself in relation to craving. But the most important thing is for the player’s family to be aware of what he is facing and to act guided to get over the problems. For this reason, one of the techniques used successfully in the psychotherapy offices of the Responsible Gaming Association is the one in which the family is also involved the player.
Craving changes people’s thoughts, their beliefs, their value system. If the player is rationally aware of the need to give up gambling and has decided not to play, when he is overwhelmed by craving, a series of thoughts appear that tend to justify the change of opinion. “I go back to the game just to see if I can resist, to prove that I am stronger than the game. I feel that luck is on my side and that I will finally be able to recover the lost money”. That is why the phenomenon of craving is characteristic of addictions and is a mechanism that leads to recurrence. There is no addiction without craving; it cannot be fought only by the will as it alters the functioning of the will itself. To combat and overcome craving, psychotherapy is required, as stated above.

The uncontrollable craving or need of gamblers
Leliana Parvulescu

Identifying craving
Craving is not a perennial and constant condition of the person who has developed an addiction. It usually evolves in waves. A gradual onset, a more or less rapid increase in intensity to a sensation of something insurmountable and then a decrease to disappearance. Physical symptoms that appear are tremor, sweating, palpitations, sore throat, suffocation, dizziness, agitation.
Usually, a craving episode tends to be short (minutes, even seconds), but sometimes lasts several hours. The prolongation of the phenomenon occurs especially if it is fed by the player with thoughts and fantasies such as: “How can I get money to play? What excuse can I find to hide my wife / husband’s recidivism? This time I feel that I will win a significant amount …”. These types of thoughts are a common reaction to the state of craving, but they tend to intensify and prolong that state.
The situations and stimuli associated with the game (environments, people …) can also favor the appearance of craving. This phenomenon has been demonstrated by experimental research using magnetic resonance imaging or tomography techniques. It has been observed that certain stimuli can activate some areas of the human brain which in turn trigger craving.