Gambling and Traumatic Stress: Analyses in Veteran and Community Samples

“Pathological gambling behaviors and symptoms of post-traumatic stress are often co-occurring problems. Prior research showed that a large percentage of problematic and pathological gamblers are currently dealing with symptoms of post-traumatic stress and that the converse also appears to be true. This project sought to deepen the knowledge of the co-occurrence of these pathologies, by specifically examining the dispositional, motivational, and cognitive aspects of the known relationships between the two domains. Using a sample of U.S. Armed Forces veterans seeking residential treatment for Gambling Disorder and an online, community sample of gambling adults, the current project examined how symptoms of post-traumatic stress were cross-sectionally related to a tendency toward negative emotion (i.e., trait neuroticism), gambling related cognitions (i.e., positive expectancies about gambling), and motivation to use gambling to cope with or escape from negative emotion. We found that gamblers with greater levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms displayed a greater propensity toward negative emotion, greater positive expectancies regarding gambling behavior, and greater motivation to use gambling as a coping resource, all relative to their counterparts with lower levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Additionally, we found that positive expectancies regarding gambling partially mediated the link between post-traumatic stress symptoms and the use of gambling to cope with negative emotion, even when neuroticism was held constant.

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