ADHD News & Research

Study: ADHD Symptoms Associated with More Severe Gambling Disorder and Emotional Dysregulation

Roughly one-fifth of individuals diagnosed with gambling disorder in the study also tested positive for ADHD symptoms. This population is more likely to experience severe or acute symptoms of gambling disorder, which is tied to higher emotional dysregulation, according to a new study of 98 Spanish men.

January 28, 2020

People diagnosed with gambling disorder who also demonstrate symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are more likely to experience gambling disorder with greater severity, according to a new study in the Journal of Attention Disorders.1

The study, jointly conducted by Spanish, American, and Australian researchers, looked at the relationship between ADHD symptomatology, emotional regulation problems, and gambling disorder. The researchers considered existing research that suggests ADHD may be a risk factor for gambling disorder, and aimed to measure the observed presence of executive regulation impairments in people with ADHD and gambling disorder.

Close to 20 percent of individuals with gambling disorder also experience ADHD, according to research cited in the study. These conditions share many clinical features, like impulsivity, self-control difficulties, and executive functioning deficits. Emotional regulation problems observed in both groups, especially when faced with negative emotions, include emotional suppression, avoidance, and catastrophizing.

For the study, scientists tested 98 individuals diagnosed with gambling disorder, who were given the adult ADHD Self-Report Scale (ASRS) and the Difficulties in Emotion Regulation Scale (DERS) — two self-report measures that assess the presence of ADHD symptoms and ER, respectively — among other measures.

The majority of participants (about 90 percent) were Spanish men with a mean age of 42.7 years.

The results showed that the 23 patients who tested positive for ADHD symptoms generally reported more severe symptoms of gambling disorder, too, and scored higher on DERS subscales. The results also suggest a direct link between ADHD symptomatology and emotional regulation problems, and a correlation between severity of emotional regulations problems and severity of gambling disorder, making emotional regulation a mediator between both disorders.

“These results underscore the role of ER difficulties in the comorbidity between both disorders,” part of the study reads.

The study’s findings, according to the authors, emphasize the importance of evaluating both ADHD and gambling disorder in patients to identify possible comorbidities that exacerbate symptom severity, and treatments to address both conditions.

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1Mestre-Bach, G., Steward, T., Potenza, M. N., Granero, R., Fernández-Aranda, F., Mena-Moreno, T., … Jiménez-Murcia, S. (2020). The Role of ADHD Symptomatology and Emotion Dysregulation in Gambling Disorder. Journal of Attention Disorders