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      Anxiety, Gambling Activity, and Neurocognition: A Dimensional Approach to a Non-Treatment-Seeking Sample

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          Background and aims

          Previous analyses have highlighted significant associations between gambling disorder (GD)/subsyndromal GD and increased rates of anxiety symptoms and anxiety disorders relative to the general population. However, less is known about how anxiety symptoms influence the clinical presentation of gambling problems. The objective of this study was to evaluate the association between anxiety symptoms, gambling activity, and neurocognition across the spectrum of gambling behavior.


          The sample consisted of 143 non-treatment-seeking young adults (aged 18–29 years), in which 63 individuals (44.1%) were classified as recreational gamblers, 47 (32.9%) as having subsyndromal GD, and 33 (23.1%) met criteria for GD.


          The main findings were: (a) there was a positive correlation between anxiety severity and gambling severity measured by the number of DSM-5 GD criteria met; (b) there was a positive correlation between anxiety severity and attentional impulsiveness; (c) subjects with suicidality presented higher levels of anxiety; and (d) the severity of anxiety symptoms was negatively correlated with the quality of life.

          Discussion and conclusions

          This study suggests that anxiety may be associated with relevant clinical variables in the broad spectrum of gambling activity. Therefore, proper management of anxiety symptoms might improve the clinical presentation of gamblers in different areas.

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          Most cited references 78

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          This study presents estimates of lifetime and 12-month prevalence of 14 DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders from the National Comorbidity Survey, the first survey to administer a structured psychiatric interview to a national probability sample in the United States. The DSM-III-R psychiatric disorders among persons aged 15 to 54 years in the noninstitutionalized civilian population of the United States were assessed with data collected by lay interviewers using a revised version of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview. Nearly 50% of respondents reported at least one lifetime disorder, and close to 30% reported at least one 12-month disorder. The most common disorders were major depressive episode, alcohol dependence, social phobia, and simple phobia. More than half of all lifetime disorders occurred in the 14% of the population who had a history of three or more comorbid disorders. These highly comorbid people also included the vast majority of people with severe disorders. Less than 40% of those with a lifetime disorder had ever received professional treatment, and less than 20% of those with a recent disorder had been in treatment during the past 12 months. Consistent with previous risk factor research, it was found that women had elevated rates of affective disorders and anxiety disorders, that men had elevated rates of substance use disorders and antisocial personality disorder, and that most disorders declined with age and with higher socioeconomic status. The prevalence of psychiatric disorders is greater than previously thought to be the case. Furthermore, this morbidity is more highly concentrated than previously recognized in roughly one sixth of the population who have a history of three or more comorbid disorders. This suggests that the causes and consequences of high comorbidity should be the focus of research attention. The majority of people with psychiatric disorders fail to obtain professional treatment. Even among people with a lifetime history of three or more comorbid disorders, the proportion who ever obtain specialty sector mental health treatment is less than 50%. These results argue for the importance of more outreach and more research on barriers to professional help-seeking.
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              Prefrontal cortical function and anxiety: controlling attention to threat-related stimuli.

              Threat-related stimuli are strong competitors for attention, particularly in anxious individuals. We used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) with healthy human volunteers to study how the processing of threat-related distractors is controlled and whether this alters as anxiety levels increase. Our work builds upon prior analyses of the cognitive control functions of lateral prefrontal cortex (lateral PFC) and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). We found that rostral ACC was strongly activated by infrequent threat-related distractors, consistent with a role for this area in responding to unexpected processing conflict caused by salient emotional stimuli. Participants with higher anxiety levels showed both less rostral ACC activity overall and reduced recruitment of lateral PFC as expectancy of threat-related distractors was established. This supports the proposal that anxiety is associated with reduced top-down control over threat-related distractors. Our results suggest distinct roles for rostral ACC and lateral PFC in governing the processing of task-irrelevant, threat-related stimuli, and indicate reduced recruitment of this circuitry in anxiety.

                Author and article information

                Journal of Behavioral Addictions
                J Behav Addict
                Akadémiai Kiadó (Budapest )
                01 July 2016
                June 2016
                : 5
                : 2
                : 261-270
                [1 ]Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago , Chicago, IL, USA
                [2 ]Department of Psychiatry, University of Cambridge , Cambridge, United Kingdom
                Author notes
                [* ]Corresponding author: Gustavo Costa Medeiros; Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience, University of Chicago, 5841 S. Maryland Ave., Office B-344, Chicago, IL 60637, USA; Phone: +1 312 369 0150; Fax: +1 773 834 3778; E-mail: gcmedeiros@
                © 2016 The Author(s)

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium for non-commercial purposes, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 3, Equations: 0, References: 75, Pages: 10
                Funding sources: This study was funded by the National Center for Responsible Gaming (specific grant type: Center of Excellence grant).
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