Problem gambling, personality disorders often go hand in hand

November 25, 2014, Springer

The treatment of people who cannot keep their gambling habits in check is often complicated because they also tend to suffer from personality disorders. So says Meredith Brown of Monash University in Australia, in a review in Springer's Journal of Gambling Studies.

Problem creates a multitude of intrapersonal, interpersonal and social difficulties for the roughly 2.3 percent of the population internationally that suffers from this behavior. Previous research has shown that people with gambling problems suffer from a range of psychiatric disorders affecting their mood, levels of anxiety and their use of substances.

Brown and her colleagues reviewed existing research to establish patterns and factors that link problem gambling and various . They found that people with gambling problems share similar characteristics to people with antisocial, borderline, histrionic and narcissistic personality disorders. In particular, Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) is found more among people with gambling problems than those who can control their gambling. This personality disorder is associated with unstable interpersonal relationships and self-image, and marked impulsivity.

The review shows that the same biological and social factors are at play in causing problem gambling and personality disorders. These include poor parental relationships during childhood, possible abuse, difficulty in controlling emotions, substance abuse, depression and anxiety disorders. Members of both groups tend to be socially isolated, have problematic relationships with their peers, lower self-esteem and feelings of hopelessness and dissociation. They are also emotionally more vulnerable, and struggle with anger issues and feelings of shame. People with gambling problems, like people suffering from BPD, also tend to be impulsive, revert to interpersonal violence and often commit suicide.

Brown advises that routine screening for personality disorders be part of any treatment option considered for people with gambling problems. This could alert clinicians to potential difficulties in treatment, and to the need to set more stringent behavioral limits. Screening will help clinicians to adjust their expectations of what treatment may achieve, and how long it may take. Because people with both problem gambling and personality disorders are three times more likely to drop out of treatment than those with problem gambling but no personality disorders, screening could also help practitioners to be more tolerant towards poor compliance and to encourage adherence to treatment.

The review highlights that Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is used successfully to treat BPD, could also help a subgroup of problem gambling. It is based on Eastern principles and teaches clients the core skills of mindfulness, distress tolerance, emotion regulation and interpersonal effectiveness, in combination with more traditional behavioral and motivational strategies.

"The fact that and high levels of psychopathology often go together indicates a need to undertake routine and systematic screening and assessment of problem gamblers who sign up for treatment," says Brown. "Because the clinical picture of people with gambling problems who also suffer from personality disorders is more complicated, their successful is also more difficult."

Explore further: Pathological gambling runs in families

More information: Brown, M. et al (2014). The Application of an Etiological Model of Personality Disorders to Problem Gambling, Journal of Gambling Studies. DOI: 10.1007/s10899-014-9504-z

Related Stories

Pathological gambling runs in families

June 16, 2014
A study by University of Iowa researchers confirms that pathological gambling runs in families and shows that first-degree relatives of pathological gamblers are eight times more likely to develop this problem in their lifetime ...

Chasing the pot of gold: Researchers study gambling subtypes and treatment outcomes

March 15, 2011
Approximately two million adults in the United States meet criteria for pathological gambling, and another four to six million are considered problem gamblers, according to the National Council on Problem Gambling. A study ...

Expansion of gambling does not lead to more problem gamblers, study finds

November 5, 2014
In the past decade, online gambling has exploded and several states, including New York, have approved measures to legalize various types of gambling. So, it's only natural that the number of people with gambling problems ...

Review highlights links between problem gambling and substance abuse, and lack of treatment options

September 4, 2013
Problem gamblers are a hidden population among people with mental health or substance abuse issues who often don't get the treatment they need, a new study shows.

Problems of pathological gambling differ for younger and older gamblers

March 14, 2013
To successfully treat pathological gambling, you need to intervene at an early stage, according to Susana Jiménez-Murcia from the University Hospital of Bellvitge in Spain and colleagues. Their study shows that a patient's ...

Fear of stigma stops people from seeking problem gambling help

November 18, 2013
While gambling is an accepted past-time in our community, having a problem with your gambling is not.  There is also significant public stigma connected to seeking help for gambling problems – so much so, that it may stop ...

Recommended for you

What social stress in monkeys can tell us about human health

December 11, 2018
Research in recent years has linked a person's physical or social environment to their well-being. Stress wears down the body and compromises the immune system, leaving a person more vulnerable to illnesses and other conditions. ...

The richer the reward, the faster you'll likely move to reach it, study shows

December 11, 2018
If you are wondering how long you personally are willing to stand in line to buy that hot new holiday gift, scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine say the answer may be found in the biological rules governing how animals typically ...

Receiving genetic information can change risk

December 11, 2018
Millions of people in the United States alone have submitted their DNA for analysis and received information that not only predicts their risk for disease but, it turns out, in some cases might also have influenced that risk, ...

Using neurofeedback to prevent PTSD in soldiers

December 11, 2018
A team of researchers from Israel, the U.S. and the U.K. has found that using neurofeedback could prevent soldiers from experiencing PTSD after engaging in emotionally difficult situations. In their paper published in the ...

You make decisions quicker and based on less information than you think

December 11, 2018
We live in an age of information. In theory, we can learn everything about anyone or anything at the touch of a button. All this information should allow us to make super-informed, data-driven decisions all the time.

These bacteria may be the key to treating clinical depression

December 11, 2018
We like to think of ourselves as individuals.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.