The link between problem gambling and OCD

The link between problem gambling and OCD

A study conducted by researchers at Yale, Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the Saint Louis University School of Medicine discovered genetic and behavioral links between problem gambling and obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

Problem gambling has proven to be a challenge when it comes to its classifications. Gambling becomes a problem when it starts interfering with and disrupting finances, relationships, mental health and work. Until recently, problem gambling was regarded as an impulse control disorder. According to the Psychiatry’s diagnostic manual, compulsive gambling used to fall under the category of disorders that included kleptomania and pyromania. However, the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (DSM-5) recently placed ‘gambling disorder’ in a new category called Non-Substance-Related-Disorders. In the latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, problem gambling was classified as an addiction.

On the other hand, OCD refers to the need to check things repeatedly, or have certain thoughts or perform routines and rituals continuously. It is essentially characterized by uncontrollable obsessions and compulsions.

People battling a gambling addiction are significantly vulnerable to depression, migraines, distress and other anxiety disorders. Since people with one addiction are more susceptible to the risk of developing another addiction, some problem gamblers may also find themselves dealing with a drug or alcohol abuse as well.

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, adult problem gamblers are five times more likely to adopt a co-occurring alcohol dependence, four times more likely to abuse drugs, three times more likely to battle depression, eight times more likely to have bipolar disorder, three times more likely to struggle with an anxiety disorder and experience significantly higher rates of tachycardia, angina and cirrhosis.

The physiological and behavioral similarities between problem gambling and substance abuse had been established a long time ago. However, the ties that gambling has with obsessive-compulsive disorder have just recently been realized.

A new study that interviewed 1,675 adult male twins, published earlier this year in JAMA Psychiatry, found that individuals with severe symptoms of OCD or those who portray specific behaviors such as fear of germs, are more likely to match the diagnostic criteria for problem gambling.

“This overlap between problem gambling and obsessive-compulsive behaviors appears to be genetic in nature,” said Dr. Marc Potenza, professor of psychiatry, child study and neurobiology, and senior author of the study. “This common biological basis of the disorders could help inform treatment development efforts for individuals with co-occurring gambling problems and obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

“For example, people with gambling problems often have strong drives and preoccupations that focus on gambling, and these may be considered in a family of obsessions. The repetitive behavior, the continued gambling despite adverse consequences – which are a central feature of a gambling disorder – that may be seen within the compulsive behavior’s domain,” said Potenza.

Researchers of this study are confident that their findings will prove beneficial in the development of problem gambling treatment alongside the identification of biological elements underlying the condition.

During the past year, the prevailing rate of problem gambling in adults in the U.S. was 2.2 percent in 2012, according to the Ontario Problem Gambling Research Center. In addition to those battling the disorder, millions of individuals namely the spouses, children, parents, family members, employers, neighbors and the general community are adversely impacted by this disorder as well.

According to the University of New York, over 80 percent of American adults gamble every year. Among this population, three to five gamblers out of every hundred struggle with a gambling problem. Ultimately, as many as 750,000 young people aged 14 to 21 struggle with a gambling addiction.

If you or a loved one is battling an addiction, a mental illness or both, the Dual Diagnosis Helpline is available to help you find the treatment best suited to your needs. For further queries or admissions, call us right now at 855-981-6047.