The relationship between problem gambling and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Abstract

Recent studies indicate that treatment-seeking problem gamblers display elevated rates of ADHD and that adolescents who screen positive for ADHD are more likely to engage in gambling, develop gambling problems, and experience a greater severity in gambling problems. This study aimed to (a) compare the prevalence of ADHD in treatment-seeking problem gamblers to the general population; (b) investigate the relationships between ADHD and problem gambling severity, cluster B personality disorders, motor impulsivity, alcohol use, substance use, gender, and age; and (c) investigate the degree to which these factors moderate the relationship between ADHD and problem gambling severity. Participants included 214 adults (154 males, 58 females, 2 unspecified) who sought treatment for their gambling problems at a specialist gambling agency in Melbourne, Australia. Almost one-quarter (24.9 %) of treatment-seeking problem gamblers screened positively for ADHD, which was significantly higher than the 14 % prevalence in a community sample. ADHD was significantly positively correlated with problem gambling severity, motor impulsivity, and cluster B personality disorders, but was not associated with alcohol and substance use, gender or age. None of the factors significantly moderated the relationship between ADHD and problem gambling severity. These findings suggest that a considerable proportion of treatment-seeking problem gamblers report ADHD and that their clinical profile is complicated by the presence of high impulsivity and cluster B personality disorders. They highlight the need for specialist gambling agencies to develop screening, assessment, and management protocols for co-occurring ADHD to enhance the effectiveness of treatment.

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