The vast majority of the Austrian population gamble only for fun as a leisure activity, and this form of social gambling is harmless for most people. Nonetheless, the first-ever nationwide study of gambling and player protection in Austria, whose findings were published in 2011 (J. Kalke et al.: Glücksspiel und Spielerschutz in Österreich, Lambertus-Verlag), shows that around 64,000 persons in the 14-65-year-old age group have suffered from a gambling addiction at some point in their lives. The study indicates that 0.43 % of this segment of the population demonstrate problem gambling behavior and 0.66 % are pathological gambling addicts. In 2015, the study was repeated and it was confirmed that around 1.1 % of the adult Austrian population suffer from a gambling problem.
Gambling addiction is an illness that is often suppressed for a long time, yet can be treated. The American Psychiatric Association diagnosed pathological gambling as all illness and included it in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) back in 1980. In 1991, the World Health Organization (WHO) also included pathological gambling in its international classification of mental and behavioral disorders (ICD-10, F.63.0) and defines it as follows:
The disorder consists of frequent, repeated episodes of gambling that dominate the patient's life to the detriment of social, occupational, material, and family values and commitments.
Gambling addicts risk their careers and their jobs, run into huge debts and lie or carry out unlawful acts to obtain money or avoid paying their debts. They describe having an intense, almost uncontrollable compulsion to gamble. They also constantly think about and imagine gambling and the feelings it produces. The thinking about and compulsion to gamble intensifies in stress situations.
The potential risks
In the following video, Dr. Izabela Horodecki, Head of the Spielsuchthilfe Wien gambling addiction support center in Vienna, and Professor Christian Haring, Head of the sucht.hilfe BIN counselling centers in Tyrol, give an overview of the social implications of gambling addiction.
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