Gambling behaviour

Disordered gambling (DG) refers to the full continuum of problems related to excessive gambling that include pathological gambling disorder. Researchers now consider that addiction not only refers exclusively to the abuse of alcohol and drugs, it extends to other non-substance behaviours known as behavioural addictions such as gambling, Internet use, video game-playing and eating among others.

DG usually is shown in persons who has substance addictions and various psychiatric conditions and has similarities with substance dependence in terms of clinical expression, comorbidity, neurobiological profile, heritability, and treatment. A compulsive gambler can show tolerance (need greater amounts of money to receive the same level of desired experience) and withdrawal (restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling).

Twin studies suggest that genetic factors may contribute more than environmental factors to the overall variance of risk for developing disordered gambling (between 50 and 60% of heritability) and that seems there are no differences among women and men (Blanco et al. 2012; Yau and Potenza 2015).

Treatment is divided in three phases, as in the case of substance abuse. At first, reduce the withdraw symptoms though behavioural treatment (no medication in approved in the United States as a treatment for disordered gambling), The second phase tends to avoid the relapse with learning new strategies to deal with cravings and it also construct new healthy patterns of behaviour. The third consist in supress the abstinence in the long term.


Blanco C, Myers J, Kendler KS. Gambling, disordered gambling and their association with major depression and substance use: a web-based cohort and twin-sibling study. Psychol. Med; 2012;42(03):497–508.

Yau YHC, Potenza MN. Gambling Disorder and Other Behavioral Addictions. Harv. Rev. Psychiatry; 2015;23(2):134–46.

Gene or region studied

  • 12q24
  • ATXN1
  • 16q13
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