Compulsive Gambling Linked to Several Psychiatric Disorders

June 27, 2014
Jacquelyn Gray

Recent research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has verified anecdotal evidence of a genetic link to compulsive gambling and found the disorder is associated with several psychiatric conditions.

Recent research published in The Journal of Clinical Psychiatry has verified anecdotal evidence of a genetic link to compulsive gambling and found the disorder is associated with several psychiatric conditions.

From February 2005 to June 2010, Donald Black and his co-contributors at the University of Iowa conducted interviews to determine gambling levels in 95 compulsive gamblers and 91 control subjects, as well as in 537 first-degree relatives of compulsive gamblers and 538 first-degree relatives of controls.

Compared to 1% of the controls’ relatives, 11% of the gamblers’ relatives were discovered to be pathological gamblers. Furthermore, 16% of the gamblers’ relatives and 3% of the controls’ relatives were considered to be problem gamblers, which is a lesser degree of gambling addiction.

Additionally, the researchers reported relatives of compulsive gamblers were biologically predisposed to higher rates of “major depression, bipolar disorder, any mood disorder, social anxiety disorder, any substance use disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and antisocial personality disorder.” Furthermore, antisocial personality disorder, social anxiety disorder, and PTSD were determined to be disproportionately present in relatives of compulsive gamblers, regardless of the gambler’s relatives own addiction status.

In a statement, Black claimed compulsive gambling may indicate a genetic predisposition to the aforementioned psychiatric disorders, with the exception of major depression, bipolar disorder, and substance abuse.

“I think our findings should give impetus to neuroscientists who conduct molecular genetic studies to really pursue this," Black said. "Maybe this situation provides a better chance of finding genes that are linked to the gambling disorder, and maybe that would pave the way for improving our understanding of the genetic transmission in general for psychiatric disorders, particularly in the realm of addiction."