Stress and gambling

Gambling is a multi-billion-dollar industry that many people engage with on a regular basis with no adverse effects. For many, gambling is a fun hobby that does not negatively impact their lives. There is, however, a significant minority whose gambling is maladaptive and causes significant adverse consequences, which may lead to personal and financial devastation. Stress and how one responds to stress may be a significant factor in determining who may gamble with impunity versus those who lose control and develop gambling disorder. In this paper, we outline three points at which stress and gambling intersect: 1) gambling to escape stress, 2) gambling as a stressor, and 3) altered stress physiology as a predisposing factor for gambling disorder. Below we describe these intersections and how they may influence the development and maintenance of gambling disorder. Link to the article

Citation: Buchanan, T.W., McMullin, S.D., Baxley, C., & Weinstock, J. (2019). Stress and gambling. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 8–12.

Gambling-related consumer credit use and debt problems: a brief review [article]

People experiencing problems with gambling may use consumer credit to cover expenses and/or continue gambling. This may contribute to debt problems and psychological distress, both of which may have pre-existed (and potentially motivated) their gambling. This review found little empirical investigation of patterns of consumer credit use by gamblers, despite borrowing money being a diagnostic criterion for gambling disorder and financial harms being one of the most commonly reported problems. Research suggests that consumer credit use and debt problems increase with problem gambling severity.
Gambling-related debt problems increase the likelihood of experiencing poor psychosocial functioning, including psychological distress, substance use, adverse family impacts, crime, and suicidality. Communities and governments are calling for more socially responsible conduct by financial institutions, which increasingly recognise the potentially harmful impacts of credit provision on the well-being of customers experiencing gambling problems. Policies and interventions are needed relating to consumer credit, debt, and gambling to enhance customers’ financial and psychosocial well-being. Link to the article

Citation: Swanton, T.B., & Gainsbury, S.M. (2019). Gambling-related consumer credit use and debt problems: a brief review. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 31, 21–31.

The joint role of impulsivity and distorted cognitions in recreational and problem gambling: A cluster analytic approach [open-access article]

Background and aims: The Pathways Model (Blaszczynski & Nower, 2002) posits that problem gambling is a heterogeneous disorder with distinct subgroups (behaviorally conditioned gamblers, emotionally vulnerable gamblers, and antisocial-impulsivist gamblers). Impulsivity traits and gambling-related cognitions are re-cognized as two key psychological factors in the onset and maintenance of problem gambling. To date, these constructs have been explored separately, and their joint role in determining problem gambling subtypes has received little attention. The goal of our study was to identify subgroups of gamblers based on impulsivity traits and gambling-related cognitions, and to determine whether this approach is consistent with the Pathways model.

Methods: Gamblers from the community (N= 709) and treatment-seeking pathological gamblers (N= 122)completed questionnaires measuring gambling habits, disordered gambling symptoms, gambling-related cog-nitions, and impulsivity traits.

Results: Cluster analyses revealed that three clusters globally aligned with the pathways proposed by Blaszczynski & Nower (2002). Two other clusters emerged: (1) impulsive gamblers without cognitive-related cognitions; and (2) gamblers without impulsivity or gambling-related cognitions. Gamblers with both heightened impulsive traits and gambling-related cognitions had more severe problem gambling symptoms.

Conclusion: We successfully identified, based on ana prioritheoretical framework, different subtypes of gamblersthat varied in terms of problem gambling symptoms and clinical status. The diversity of the cluster profilessupports the development of personalized prevention strategies and psychological interventions.
Link to the article

Citation: Gaëtan Devos, Luke Clark, Henrietta Bowden-Jones, Marie Grall-Bronnec, Gaëlle Challet-Bouju, Yasser Khazaal, Pierre Maurage, Joël Billieux. (2020). The joint role of impulsivity and distorted cognitions in recreational and problem gambling: A cluster analytic approach. Journal of Affective Disorders, 260, 473-482.

What can be done to reduce the public stigma of gambling disorder? Lessons from other stigmatised conditions [subscription access article].

Abstract: Gambling is embedded in Australian cultural history, and perceived as a normal, legitimate leisure activity. Despite this normalisation, people who experience gambling problems are heavily stigmatised which can lead to a variety of harms that extend beyond the individual. The stigma from the general public appears to be based on a stereotype of a typical “problem gambler”—selfish, greedy, impulsive and irresponsible. However, research suggests that people experiencing gambling problems have widely varying characteristics and do not conform to this stereotype. Regardless of whether the stigma is justified, it is both present and problematic. Gamblers experiencing problems delay help-seeking due to feelings of shame and, not unwarranted, expectations of negative judgement because of the heavy stigma associated with the stereotype. As stigma is a primary barrier to treatment and a reason why gambling problems can take longer to acknowledge, it is important to understand and address how stigma can be reduced to minimise the negative consequences of gambling on individuals, their families and friends and the wider community. There is little research on reducing gambling-related stigma, so there is a need to examine strategies used in other stigmatised conditions, such as mental health, to understand the general principles of effective stigma reduction measures. Because gambling disorder is unique, well-hidden and consequently not well understood, there is a need to recognise that techniques used in other domains may differ in their effectiveness within the context of gambling stigma. Article details and access conditions

Citation: Brown, K.L., & Russell, A.M.T. What can be done to reduce the public stigma of gambling disorder? Lessons from other stigmatised conditions. Journal of Gambling Studies. doi:

Challenges of gaming disorder: Suggestions from a public health perspective [open-access article].

Introduction: Based on the results from numerous studies and discussions by expert groups organised by the WHO, gaming disorder is recognised as a mental disorder and is listed in the chapter of mental, behavioural and neurodevelopmental disorders in the recently released International Classification of Diseases, 11th Version (ICD-11). Gaming disorder, gambling disorder and substance use disorder belong to the same category of mental disorder. This change will help improve the public’s awareness and understanding of gaming disorder. Meanwhile, it will encourage related research and develop scientific and effective interventions for the purpose of negative consequences reduction. Short article available online

Reference: Zhao, M., & Hao., W. (2019). Challenges of gaming disorder: Suggestions from a public health perspective. General Psychiatry, 32(e100086). doi: 10.1136/gpsych-2019-100086

The Iowa Gambling Task: A review of the historical evolution, scientific basis, and use in functional neuroimaging [open-access article].

Abstract: The Iowa Gambling Task (IGT) provides a framework to evaluate an individual decision-making process through a simulated card game where the risks and rewards vary by the decks chosen. Participants are expected to understand the logic behind the allocation of gains and losses over the course of the test and adapt their pattern of choices accordingly. This review explores the scientific work on studying problem gambling via the IGT while employing neuroimaging techniques. We first concentrate on the historical evolution of the IGT as a mechanism for studying gamblers’ behavioral patterns. Our research will also discuss the prefrontal cortex as this region of the brain is most affected by changes in behavioral patterns. In this review, we describe a number of features that may be useful in investigating decision-making patterns that lead to gambling addiction. We discuss the evidence base to date including experiments involving gambling behavior in different groups of participants (e.g., males and females, adults and minors, patients and controls) and alterations to experiment conditions that provide more thorough understanding of thought patterns in potential gamblers. We conclude that psychological testing combined with functional imaging provide powerful tools to further examine the relationships between functional impairment of the brain and a person’s ability to objectively anticipate the end results of their decisions. Article available online

Reference: Aram, S., Levy, L., Patel, J.B., Anderson, A.A., Zaragoza, R., Dashtestani, H., Chowdhry, F.A., Gandjbakhche, A., & Tracy, J. K. (2019). The Iowa Gambling Task: A review of the historical evolution, scientific basis, and use in functional neuroimaging. SAGE Open.

Integrating psilocybin and existential-humanistic psychotherapy for pathological gambling treatment: a new perspective [open-access article].

Abstract: In the last years, the debate on the use of psychedelics in psychotherapeutic settings has intensified, attracting a lot of interest and attention from the scholarly community as well as from clinicians and paving the way for new therapeutic paradigms. Besides classical addictions and addictive behaviors, there exist forms of addictions, the so-called new addictions or behavioral addictions, whose characterization is not linked so much to substances but to widespread and socially accepted activities such as games, shopping, internet use, sex, love relationships, work and exercises, physical activities or sports.
Among the various addictions, the gambling disorder is the first form of behavioral addictions officially recognized by the DSM-V, in accordance with a wealth of neurobiological and clinical data showing the activation in patients of the gratification systems (especially dopamine).
Orthos, as intensive residential intervention program envisaging a non-moralistic approach to gambling, can be combined with the administration of psilocybin, a substance characterized by a very low potential for abuse, modulating brain areas and networks affected by addictive behaviors. Therefore, our proposal would be to start treating behavioral addictions combining psilocybin administration with existential-humanistic psychotherapy, like Orthos. Article available online

Reference: Raymondo, S., & Firenzuoli, F. (2019). Integrating psilocybin and existential-humanistic psychotherapy for pathological gambling treatment: a new perspective. Cosmos and History: The Journal of Natural and Social Philosophy, 15(1), 228–236.