Pathological gambling is a mental health disorder that is being increasingly examined. Understanding the various factors that contribute to a gambling addiction may help in developing treatment programs for helping individuals struggling to overcome pathological gambling behaviors. Recently, researchers have been working to discover whether a specific set of symptoms may be present within gambling addiction.
Pathological gamblers have been shown through previous studies to be an expression of an underlying addiction syndrome. Understanding gambling addiction as a syndrome assumes that there is a particular group of signs and symptoms associated with gambling addiction. However, the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction vary among individuals.
A recent study by Albarez-Moya et al., (2010) examined the possible pathological gambling subgroups that can share signs and symptoms of a gambling addiction syndrome. The researchers recruited 1171 participants who met the criteria for the study. All were Caucasian pathological gamblers seeking treatment at a hospital in Spain.
The participants were measured using two categories of assessments. The personality assessment used The Temperament and Character Inventory-Revised to measure seven personality factors and the Eysenck Impulsivity Scale 17 measured rash impulsiveness and venturesomeness.
Clinical features such as phobic anxiety, interpersonal sensitivity and hostility were also measured using the Symptom Checklist – 90 Items-Revised. The SOGS and DSM-IV pathological gambling measured disordered gambling.
The researchers used cluster analysis to group the personality assessments into pathological gambling subgroups.
The analysis identified four subgroups within the pathological gambling participants, who were all seeking treatment. Subgroup 1 was characterized by traits of disorganized personality and emotional instability. Subgroup 2 was schizoid with the highest harm avoidance of the groups. Subgroup 3 was reward sensitive and had high novelty-seeking, persistence and venturesomeness scores. Subgroup 4 showed high-functioning traits with the highest self-directedness.
The authors note that there may be some limitations to the study’s results. The use of self-report may affect the results, as well as the use of only participants who were seeking treatment at the time of recruitment.
The study identified four clusters of personality types through the screening of pathological gamblers participating in the study. While pathological gamblers are generally a heterogeneous group with no set of distinguishing symptoms, these results indicate that there may be subgroups that cluster into a few main groups of symptoms.
These results may be useful in treatment decisions for interventions with pathological gamblers. Identifying the subgroup for which a person may meet qualifications may offer some guidance and insight into a treatment program.