Pathological gambling and associated drug and alcohol abuse, emotion regulation, and anxious-depressive symptomatology


Background and aims: Pathological gambling is associated with comorbid disorders, such as anxiety, depression, and drug and alcohol abuse. Difficulties of emotion regulation may be one of the factors related to the presence of addictive disorders, along with comorbid symptomatology in pathological gamblers. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate the difficulties of emotion regulation, drug and alcohol abuse, and anxious and depressive symptomatology in pathological gamblers, and the mediating role of difficulties of emotion regulation between anxiety and pathological gambling.

Methods: The study sample included 167 male pathological gamblers (mean age = 39.29 years) and 107 non-gamblers (mean age = 33.43 years). Pathological gambling (SOGS), difficulties of emotion regulation (DERS), drug and alcohol abuse (MUTICAGE CAD-4), and anxious and depressive symptomatology (SA-45) were measured. Student’s t, Pearson’s r, stepwise multiple linear regression and multiple mediation analyses were conducted. The study was approved by an Investigational Review Board.

Results: Relative to non-gamblers, pathological gamblers exhibited greater difficulties of emotion regulation, as well as more anxiety, depression, and drug abuse. Moreover, pathological gambling correlated with emotion regulation difficulties, anxiety, depression, and drug abuse. Besides, emotion regulation difficulties correlated with and predicted pathological gambling, drug and alcohol abuse, and anxious and depressive symptomatology. Finally, emotion regulation difficulties mediated the relationship between anxiety and pathological gambling controlling the effect of age, both when controlling and not controlling for the effect of other abuses.

Discussion and conclusions: These results suggest that difficulties of emotion regulation may provide new keys to understanding and treating pathological gambling and comorbid disorders.

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