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      Gambling Problems and Alexithymia: A Systematic Review

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      Brain Sciences
      gambling, alexithymia, review, community and clinical samples

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          Among the factors that are thought to underlie gambling problems, alexithymia has been recognized to contribute to their development. For the first time, we reviewed the literature on the relationship between alexithymia and gambling. A systematic search of literature was run in the major reference databases including PubMed, Cochrane Database for Systematic Review, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus until April 2019. The search produced 182 articles that produced 20 papers included in the review. Fourteen studies were conducted with community samples of pathological gamblers while six studies with clinical samples of disordered gamblers. All studies assessed alexithymia with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale while gambling problems were assessed mostly with the South Oaks Gambling Screen. Alexithymic features were significantly more prevalent in pathological gamblers both at the community and clinical levels, increased symptom severity, and showed interactive mechanisms with personality, psychiatric, and cognitive factors. Alexithymia is likely to associate with gambling as a coping behavior to increase emotional arousal and avoid negative emotions, according to the affect dysregulation model. Further studies are needed to widen the knowledge on this association.

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          Most cited references43

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          Risk factors for problematic gambling: a critical literature review.

          This article is a critical review of risk factors for pathological gambling categorized by demographics, physiological and biological factors, cognitive distortions, comorbidity and concurrent symptoms, and personality symptoms and characteristics. There is also a varia section (availability, parents playing, sensory characteristics, schedules of reinforcement, age of onset, and playing duration). The review found very few well established risk factors for pathological gambling (i.e. more than two studies to support the conclusions). Well established risk factors included demographic variables (age, gender), cognitive distortions (erroneous perceptions, illusion of control), sensory characteristics, schedules of reinforcement, comorbid disorders (OCD, drug abuse), and delinquency/illegal acts. An understanding of risk factors for pathological gambling should enhance prevention and treatment approaches.
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            The assessment of alexithymia in medical settings: implications for understanding and treating health problems.

            The construct of alexithymia encompasses the characteristics of difficulty identifying feelings, difficulty describing feelings, externally oriented thinking, and a limited imaginal capacity. These characteristics are thought to reflect deficits in the cognitive processing and regulation of emotions and to contribute to the onset or maintenance of several medical and psychiatric disorders. In this article, we review recent methods for assessing alexithymia and examine how assessing alexithymia can inform clinical practice. Alexithymia is associated with heightened physiological arousal, the tendency to notice and report physical symptoms, and unhealthy compulsive behaviors. Alexithymic patients may respond poorly to psychological treatments, although perhaps not to cognitive-behavioral techniques, and it is unclear whether alexithymia can be improved through treatment. Interpretive problems regarding alexithymia include its overlap with other traits, whether it is secondary to illness or trauma, the possibility of subtypes, and low correlations among multiple measures. Nonetheless, we encourage the assessment of alexithymia in applied settings.
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              Gambling disorders.

              Gambling disorders, including pathological gambling and problem gambling, have received increased attention from clinicians and researchers over the past three decades since gambling opportunities have expanded around the world. This Seminar reviews prevalence, causes and associated features, screening and diagnosis, and treatment approaches. Gambling disorders affect 0·2-5·3% of adults worldwide, although measurement and prevalence varies according to the screening instruments and methods used, and availability and accessibility of gambling opportunities. Several distinct treatment approaches have been favourably evaluated, such as cognitive behavioural and brief treatment models and pharmacological interventions. Although promising, family therapy and support from Gamblers Anonymous are less well empirically supported. Gambling disorders are highly comorbid with other mental health and substance use disorders, and a further understanding is needed of both the causes and treatment implications of this disorder. Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

                Author and article information

                Brain Sci
                Brain Sci
                Brain Sciences
                07 August 2019
                August 2019
                : 9
                : 8
                : 191
                Department of Psychological, Health and Territorial Sciences, G. d’Annunzio University of Chieti-Pescara, 66100 Chieti, Italy
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: d.marchetti@ 123456unich.it
                Author information
                © 2019 by the authors.

                Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                : 28 June 2019
                : 06 August 2019

                gambling,alexithymia,review,community and clinical samples


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