Pathological gambling, impulse control disorder or behavioural addiction: What do the data indicate?


The reclassification of PG as an addictive disorder is under debate for ICD-11. Data on psychiatric comorbidity and family history might provide the basis for a well-informed decision.

We compared 515 male pathological gamblers from inpatient treatment units with 269 matched controls. Patients were diagnosed by experienced clinicians. In a random sample of 58 patients clinical diagnoses were validated through SKID 1 interviews [1].

88% had a comorbid diagnosis of substance dependence (nicotine dependence 80%, alcohol dependence 28%). Only 1% of the gamblers had an impulse control disorder diagnosis. Compared with controls first degree relatives were more likely to suffer from alcohol dependence (27.0% vs. 7.4%), PG (8.3% vs. 0.7%) and suicide attempts (2.7% vs. 0.4%).

In addition to recent papers on the neurobiology (Fauth-Bühler et al., 2016) and genetics of gambling [2,3], our findings support the classification of PG as behavioural addiction in the ICD-11 [4].

Problem with this document? Please report it to us.