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Study Identifies Four Groups of Pathological Gamblers

Study Identifies Four Groups of Pathological GamblersHow would you define the personality type of a compulsive gambler?

A new study has broken down the personality traits of people suffering from a gambling addition into four categories: 1) disorganized and emotionally unstable; 2) poorly adapted; 3) suffering from alcohol problems; and 4) impulsive, or with a “globally adapted” personality.

Researchers from the University Hospital of Bellvitge (IDIBELL) and the Autonomous University of Barcelona (UAB) were able to make these groupings after studying 1,171 people. According to the scientific team, only one of these four categories of gamblers actually shows signs of a significant pathology.

“We need to use different treatments for each sub-group of pathological gamblers in order to respond to their specific therapeutic difficulties and needs,” says Susana Jiménez Murcia, co-author of the study.

According to the researchers, types I and II are pathological gamblers who exhibit problems in controlling their responses, “but only type II shows signs of a significant concurrent psychopathology,” with high levels of impulsiveness and sensation-seeking.

Defined as a progressive and chronic collapse in the ability to resist the urge to gamble, pathological gambling represents a behavior that often damages personal and family relationships as well as career-related goals. In mental illness manuals, pathological gambling is classified as a “disruption in the ability to control impulses.”

Researchers explain that this particular classification has been the subject of debate and controversy in the scientific community because there is a high degree of heterogeneity that exists in this disorder.

Because this controversy exists, the scientific community is now looking into the possibility of introducing a new diagnostic category called “behavioral and substance addictions” in the new editions of manuals such as the Quinto Manual Diagnóstico y Estadístico de los Trastornos Mentales (DSM-5) (Fifth Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders).

More specifically, the type I category, which was named ‘disorganized and emotionally unstable,’ is characterized by schizotypal personality traits, high degrees of impulsiveness, alcohol and substance abuse, psychopathological alterations and early onset age.

The type II classification is also a schizoid type. These types of gamblers exhibit high levels of harm avoidance, social distancing and alcohol abuse.

In the case of the type III classification, researchers said that gamblers are reward-sensitive. They seek high levels of sensation-seeking and impulsiveness, although without any psychopathological alterations.

Type IV is a high functioning, globally-adapted personality type, without any disorders relating to substance abuse, and no associated psychopathological alterations.

The results of the study have been published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry.

It is estimated that 15 million Americans display signs of gambling addiction and two thirds of the adult population has placed some type of bet in the last year.

Source:  AlphaGalileo Foundation

Study Identifies Four Groups of Pathological Gamblers

Selena Chavis

APA Reference
Chavis, S. (2018). Study Identifies Four Groups of Pathological Gamblers. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 4, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 17 Oct 2010)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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