Problem Gamblers Share Addicts' Personality Traits

They score high in impulsivity, risk-taking, experts say

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WEDNESDAY, July 6, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Problem gamblers tend to have personality profiles similar to those of people with alcohol, marijuana and nicotine dependence, according to a new study.

"In particular, young adults with a diagnosis of problem gambling were characterized by negative emotions such as nervousness or worry, anger or aggressiveness, feeling mistreated or victimized, and unconstrained behaviors of risk-taking, impulsivity, and rebelliousness," said researchers at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Reporting in the July issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, the team compared standard personality assessments for 939 young adults diagnosed with problem gambling, alcohol, marijuana and nicotine dependence.

The researchers found that these conditions were often linked. "Past-year problem gambling was significantly associated with past-year alcohol dependence, cannabis dependence, and nicotine dependence," the study authors wrote. "The associations between problem gambling and the three substance use disorders were similar in magnitude and were nearly as large as the well-established association between alcohol and nicotine dependence."

Personality traits were also "strikingly similar" to those often seen in drug- or alcohol-addicted adults, the researchers reported. They found that young adults diagnosed with problem gambling before age 21 were more likely to score high in impulsivity and risk-taking behaviors, as well as negative emotions, on personality tests taken at age 18.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about compulsive gambling.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, July 4, 2005

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