Post-traumatic stress symptoms in pathological gambling: Potential evidence of anti-reward processes (full text)

By Cheryl L. Green, Ramzi W. Nahhas, Arielle A. Scoglio, Igor Elman.

Background: Excessive gambling is considered to be a part of the addiction spectrum. Stress-like emotional states are a key feature both of pathological gambling (PG) and of substance addiction. In substance addiction, stress symptomatology has been attributed in part to “anti-reward” allostatic neuroadaptations, while a potential involvement of anti-reward processes in the course of PG has not yet been investigated. Methods: To that end, individuals with PG (n = 22) and mentally healthy subjects (n = 13) were assessed for trauma exposure and post-traumatic stress symptomatology (PTSS) using the Life Events Checklist and the Civilian Mississippi Scale, respectively. Results: In comparison with healthy subjects, individuals with PG had significantly greater PTSS scores including greater physiological arousal sub-scores. The number of traumatic events and their recency were not significantly different between the groups. In the PG group, greater gambling severity was associated with more PTSS, but neither with traumatic events exposure nor with their recency. Conclusions: Our data replicate prior reports on the role of traumatic stress in the course of PG and extend those findings by suggesting that the link may be derived from the anti-reward-type neuroadaptation rather than from the traumatic stress exposure per se.