• Vol. 36 No. 3, 165–168
  • 15 March 2007

Demographic and Clinical Features of 150 Pathological Gamblers Referred to a Community Addictions Programme

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ABSTRACT

Introduction: Pathological gambling has been defined as a persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behaviour that disrupts personal, family and work life. The present study reports on the sociodemographic features, gambling activity, comorbidity and legal problems in a sample of 150 pathological gamblers who sought treatment from the Community Addiction Management Programme (CAMP), Singapore over a 4-year period from 2002 to 2006. Materials and Methods: Data were collected on 150 consecutive subjects who sought treatment at CAMP. Patients were administered a semi-structured interview to elicit demographic data, age of onset, family history, onset games and types of games ever played, largest debt incurred due to gambling, triggers, illegal activities and suicidal attempts by their counsellor. Patients were then assessed by the clinicians to establish the primary and comorbid diagnoses. Results: The mean age of the subjects was 42.5 [standard deviation (SD) 10.2] years. The majority of them were males (87.3%) and of Chinese origin (97.3%). The most common comorbid disorders were mood disorders (n = 22, 14.7%), substance abuse (n = 11, 7.3%) and alcohol abuse or dependence (n = 7, 4.7%). Sixteen (10.7%) subjects had a history of suicidal attempts which had been precipitated by gambling-related issues. Conclusions: Pathological gambling in our subjects appears to be associated with significant comorbidity and financial problems. These are the preliminary findings and further research is needed regarding the phenomenology, profile, course and response to treatment of pathological gambling disorders.


Pathological gambling has been defined as a persistent and recurrent maladaptive gambling behaviour that disrupts personal, family and work life. The diagnosis is not made if the gambling behaviour is better accounted for by a Manic Episode [Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV criteria].1 Diagnostic criteria are similar to those for substance dependence and include preoccupation, inability to control or stop gambling, the need to make larger bets, or take greater risks, to produce the desired level of excitement, continuing to gamble despite problems, restlessness and irritability when unable to gamble. Pathological gambling was first designated a psychiatric disorder in 1980 in DSM-III and in DSM-IIIR was grouped under the category “disorders of impulse control not elsewhere classified”. While some researchers consider pathological gambling an addiction,2 others argue that pathological gambling has more in common with obsessive-compulsive disorder than with addictions and should therefore be viewed as an obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorder.3

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