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.

Recovery, relapse, or else? Treatment outcomes in gambling disorder from a multicenter follow-up study

K.W. Müller, K. Wölfling, U. Dickenhorst, M.E. Beutel, J. Medenwaldt, A. Koch.

Purpose: Gambling disorder is associated with various adverse effects. While data on the immediate effectiveness of treatment programs are available, follow-up studies examining long-term effects are scarce and factors contributing to a stable therapy outcome versus relapse are under-researched.

Materials and methods: Patients (n = 270) finishing inpatient treatment for gambling disorder regularly participated in a prospective multicenter follow-up study (pre-treatment, post-treatment, 12-month follow-up). Criteria for gambling disorder, psychopathology, functional impairment were defined as endpoints. Changes in personality were defined as an additional parameter.

Results: At follow-up, three groups were identified: subjects maintaining full abstinence (41.6%), patients still meeting criteria for gambling disorder (29.2%), and subjects still participating in gambling without meeting the diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder (29.2%). Every group had improvements in functional impairment, abstinent subjects showed the lowest psychopathology. Significant decreases in neuroticism and increases in both extraversion and conscientiousness were found among abstinent subjects but not in patients still meeting criteria for gambling disorder.

Discussion: One year after treatment, a considerable percentage of patients kept on gambling but not all of them were classified with gambling disorder leading to the question if abstinence is a necessary goal for every patient.

Conclusions: The changes of personality in abstinent patients indicate that after surmounting gambling disorder a subsequent maturing of personality might be a protective factor against relapse.

Müller, K. W., Wölfling, K., Dickenhorst, U., Beutel, M. E., Medenwaldt, J., & Koch, A. (n.d.). Recovery, relapse, or else? Treatment outcomes in gambling disorder from a multicenter follow-up study. European Psychiatry. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.eurpsy.2017.01.326