Spanish Study Expands Gambling Addiction Complexity

May 1, 2024
A Spanish study has found that nearly all gambling addicts have another mental disorder, resulting in calls for a new diagnosis: dual gambling disorder. 

A Spanish study has found that nearly all gambling addicts have another mental disorder, resulting in calls for a new diagnosis: dual gambling disorder.

The study was carried out by the Spanish Society of Dual Pathology and echoed the results of another American study that found the co-morbidity rate was 96 percent. 

The findings were presented at the World Congress of the Dual Disorders in Mallorca last week by one of the study’s authors, Dr. Nestor Szerman, who said: "A dysfunctional brain can express different emotional, cognitive and behavioural alterations, which explains why almost all people with a gaming disorder also present anxiety or depression."

The study, published in European Neuropsychopharmacology, surveyed 116 patients in treatment for a gambling disorder (GD).

Of the surveyed co-existing disorders, half had attention deficit disorder, which the UK's National Health Service defines as a neurodevelopmental condition that “cannot develop in adults without it first appearing during childhood”.

A further 17.2 percent had a diagnosis of social anxiety. According to the guidelines of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, “social anxiety disorder typically starts in childhood or adolescence. There is a small subgroup of people who develop the condition in later life.” 

A further 30 percent had moderate to severe depression, a condition that can develop at any time. 

The study did not examine if the onset of depression was before or after the onset of gambling disorders.  

It also confirmed the presence of co-occurrence of mood disorders and insomnia.  

Szerman is the president of the Dual Pathology Foundation and proposed a new diagnosis: dual gambling disorder. 

He said that a high percentage of gambling addicts present with anxiety and depression, as well as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Some 80 percent of patients have high impulsivity, which is also associated with ADHD.  

He encouraged early detection and calculation of risk factors as key prevention methods, saying that viewing addiction biologically takes the burden and stigma of moral failing out of the equation.

“Addiction is a mental disorder like any other, but there is a tendency to think that this is a problem of vice, bad behaviour and bad company. Nobody chooses to have an addiction. Addiction is a mental illness that always occurs together with other mental illnesses,” he told the gathered audience.

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