Deficits in emotion regulation associated with pathological gambling


Objectives: The concept of emotion regulation features in many models of psychopathology and it has been proposed that individuals with poorly regulated emotions often engage in maladaptive behaviours to escape from or down-regulate their emotions, creating risk for a range of disorders. One such disorder may be pathological gambling. To our knowledge, no study had assessed the use of emotion-regulation strategies in this population. The goal of the present study was therefore to examine emotion-regulation difficulties among a sample of pathological gamblers (n = 56), a mixed clinical comparison group (n = 50), and a sample of healthy community controls (n = 49). Design: Multivariate analysis of variance controlling for age. Methods: Participants were recruited from the community and a gambling treatment unit in Australia and completed clinical diagnostic interviews (ADIS-IV; SCIP), self-report measures of psychopathology (DASS-21), substance use (AUDIT), and emotion-regulation difficulties (DERS; ERQ). Results: Pathological gamblers and the clinical comparison group reported significantly less use of reappraisal as an adaptive emotion-regulation strategy, and reported a greater lack of emotional clarity and more impulsivity than individuals in the healthy community comparison group. Pathological gamblers reported a greater lack of emotional awareness compared to the healthy control group and reported differences in access to effective emotion-regulation strategies compared to both comparison groups. Conclusions: The results support specific deficits of emotion regulation in pathological gamblers and emphasize the need to address these underlying vulnerabilities in addition to directly targeting gambling behaviours in therapy.

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