Gambling disorder and affect regulation: The role of alexithymia and attachment style

Abstract

The aim of the present study was to explore the dimensions of alexithymia and attachment styles in a group of disordered gamblers and to evaluate the relationship between alexithymia, attachment styles, and the severity of gambling disorder. Sixty disordered gamblers diagnosed according to the diagnostic and statistical manual-5 filled out the Kurzfragebogen zum Glücksspielverhalten, the 20-Item Toronto Alexithymia Scale, and the Experiences in Close Relationships-Revised. Approximately 70 % of the sample displayed ‘intermediate’ and ‘severe’ gambling severity levels on the Kurzfragebogen zum Glücksspielverhalten, and 77 % showed ‘high’ or ‘borderline’ levels of alexithymia on the Toronto Alexithymia Scale (mean = 56.40). Regarding attachment styles, 70 % of the sample displayed an ‘insecure’ attachment, with a particularly high prevalence of the ‘fearful’ style (26.66 %). A linear regression analysis revealed that only the anxiety dimension of the Experiences in Close Relationships questionnaire predicted the severity of gambling. Our data appear to confirm that gambling disorder is characterised by emotional and relational dysregulation, and that pathological gambling behaviours may serve as external regulators of internal undifferentiated emotional states.

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