The experience of gratification and compensation in addictive behaviors : How can these experiences be measured systematically within and across disorders due to addictive behaviors?

Background: Beyond gaming disorder and gambling disorder, pornography-use disorder, buying-shopping disorder, and social-networksuse disorders are discussed as further disorders due to addictive behaviors. For addictive behaviors, it is assumed that the experience of gratification and the experience of compensation due to the specific behavior represent reinforcing processes involved in the development and maintenance of the problematic behaviors. We aimed to develop two questionnaires that capture the experienced gratification and experienced compensation while using online activities. We additionally assume significant relationships with further addiction-related constructs such as symptom severity, use expectancies, and craving experiences.

Methods: We conducted three studies for the development of the "Experience of Gratification Scale" (EGS) and the "Experience of Compensation Scale" (ECS). In each study, participants answered the questionnaires modified for their preferred online activity (gaming, gambling, buying-shopping, social-networks use, pornography use). Additional questionnaires were used, assessing further addiction-related constructs.

Results: The results of the gradual approach by using exploratory and confirmatory factor analyses indicated for both scales a two-factor solution resulting in "gratification of needs" and "experience of pleasure" for the EGS, and "compensation of needs" and "experience of relief from negative feelings" for the ECS. The factors were significantly correlated with each other as well as with craving experiences, use expectancies, and symptom severity. Moreover, we found significant differences in the experienced gratification and experienced compensation for specific online behaviors.

Conclusion: The theoretically plausible specific factors for experienced gratification and experienced compensation could be identified and were related to constructs considered important in addictive online behaviors. Further studies should investigate the relevance of these constructs for different types of addictive behaviors, but also within the addiction process addressing specific needs and motives as well as further positive and negative reinforcement mechanisms.


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