Impulsivity and pathological gambling: An Italian study


Pathological gambling (PG) is a behavioral addictive disorder characterized by persistent and problematic gambling behaviors, in presence of impairment of self-regulation and impulsivity. Impulsivity is widely supported by literature in developing and maintaining addictive behaviors and PG.

The aim of this study is to compare PG to impulsivity in a group of Italian outpatients, in order to further explore their appealing relation and to sensitize local public institutions about this problem that is of growing concern amongst our population.

Fifty outpatients were recruited at the psychiatric outpatient ward of the University of Pisa. All of them had a diagnosis of PG, assessed throughout the structured clinical interview for DSM-5 (SCID-5). The sample was compared with a similar group of healthy control subjects. South Oaks Gambling Screen (SOGS) scale and Barrat Impulsivity Scale (BIS-11) questionnaires were used to assess respectively the severity of PG and impulsivity traits of personality.

PG patients reported significantly higher total score in BIS-11 than control subjects. In particular, the “motor impulsivity” and “cognitive complexity” scores were significantly higher in PG patients, as well as “motor” and “non-planning” impulsivity subscale scores. A positive and significant correlation was found between BIS-11 and SOGS total scores.

These results corroborate the existence of the widely described association between impulsivity and PG. Also they support the notion that impulsivity may represent a core element of PG and, perhaps, to a typical personality trait, that may be particularly related to the development of addictive and impulsive behaviors.

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