Traumatic event exposure and gambling: Associations with clinical, neurocognitive, and personality variables

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Epidemiological research has shown high comorbidity rates between at-risk/problem (ARP) gambling and trauma. However, few studies have assessed the neurocognitive implications of this comorbidity, and even fewer have been conducted with young adults. The present study sought to determine the neurocognitive, clinical, personality types associated with trauma in ARP gamblers. METHODS: The present study analyzed young adult gamblers age 18 to 29 drawn from a study investigating impulsivity. Of the 230 gamblers, 52 (22.6%) reported experiencing a traumatic event during their life to which they responded with intense fear, helplessness, or horror. The remaining participants indicated no experience with trauma. RESULTS: ARP gamblers who had experienced trauma showed significant neurocognitive deficits on tasks related to decision-making, risk adjustment, sustained attention, and spatial working memory. We did not detect significant differences in gambling severity. Trauma was associated with lower perceived quality of life and self-esteem, and higher rates of current comorbid diagnoses, suicidality, substance use disorders, and nicotine use. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that trauma may not exacerbate the severity of gambling in ARP gamblers. However, significant differences in supplemental clinical and neurocognitive measures may indicate that trauma is an important consideration when assessing problems beyond those related directly to gambling severity.

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