Problem gamblers seek tension release
08 February 2005
New Zealand Herald

Problem gamblers are partly motivated by their need to release tension and are likely to be depressed, a psychologist says.

A Massey University study of 150 Auckland tertiary students also found those with a gambling problem thought their parents gambled too much, wanted to feel important and wondered what they got out of gambling.

Dave Clarke, from the School of Psychology at Massey University's Albany campus on the North Shore, said it was widely assumed winning money was the most important factor for a person to continue gambling.

But for problem gamblers in his study, who made up about 17 per cent of the group, seeking release from tension predominated.

"Like most addictions, indulging in a pleasurable activity provides temporary relief which in turn reinforces the behaviour," Dr Clarke said.

"The initial sense of excitement and accomplishment at learning about a game might be diminished by the boring repetitiveness of the activity, feeling of futility about gambling, and mounting personal problems and reinforcements of tension release," he said.

Playing on poker machines was the favoured activity of those classified as gamblers in the study.

Dr Clarke is part of a research team studying gambling in New Zealand.

He has just published a paper in the international Journal of Gambling Studies on his research into the motives of problem and non-problem gamblers.