Episodic and Binge Gambling: An Exploration and Preliminary Quantitative Study (open access)

By S. Cowlishaw, E. Nespoli, J.K. Jebadurai, N. Smith, and H. Bowden-Jones.

The DSM-5 includes provisions for episodic forms of gambling disorder, with such changes aligned with earlier accounts of potential binge gambling behaviours. However, there is little research that indicates the utility of these classifications of episodic or binge gambling, and this study considered their characteristics in a clinical sample. It involved administration of a new binge gambling screening tool, along with routine measures, to n = 214 patients entering a specialist treatment clinic for gambling problems. Results indicated that episodic gambling was common in this clinical context, with 28 and 32% of patients reporting gambling episodes that were (a) regular and alternating, and (b) irregular and intermittent, respectively. These patterns were distinguished by factors including associations with covariates that indicated differences from continuous gamblers. For example, the irregular episodic gamblers, but not the regular pattern, demonstrated lower levels of problem gambling severity and comorbidity. Rates of potential binge gambling, which was defined in terms of additional criteria, were around 4% and numbers were insufficient for comparable analyses. The findings support inclusion of episodic forms of gambling disorder in the DSM-5, but highlight the need for improved recognition and research on heterogeneous forms of episodic gambling.