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Stressful Life Events And Their Impact On Female Problem Gambling

Despite the growth of research on gender, there are still gaps in terms of carrying out specific studies that refer to the importance of stressful life events, emotional regulation and alexithymia in female gamblers. Numerous studies indicate that life stressors, specifically early adverse experiences and trauma, increase the risk of psychopathology in adult life, including the development of gambling disorder.

Are Stressful Life Events Connected To Problem Gambling?

Stressful life events are a set of experiences, such as emotional abuse, physical neglect, physical abuse and sexual abuse, and interpersonal trauma that trigger a significant change in the person's life, causing a great impact on health. These have been associated with a multitude of negative consequences and have been significantly related to the abusive consumption of substances. A recent study indicates that women with major stressful life events in childhood are more predisposed to substance use and that they use substance use as a coping mechanism to alleviate trauma-related symptoms and calm associated memories. Likewise, women with significant stressful life events in childhood could be at greater risk of developing pathological or problematic gambling behaviors, and as a consequence, use gambling as an escape and coping route. In a study they found that difficulty tolerating negative emotions is a risk factor for developing problematic and pathological gambling behaviors. 

Can Problem Gamblers Regulate Their Emotions?

Likewise, other studies have indicated that difficulty regulating emotions predicts gambling behavior and greater severity of the behavior. Along the same lines, it was observed that pathological gamblers showed greater difficulties in emotional regulation. Likewise, there are fewer studies conducted with adolescents, but they show similar results. Along the same lines, studies carried out with a gender perspective show that difficulty regulating emotions is a risk factor for women to develop addictive behaviors with substance, abusive use of social networks, emotional dependence and binge eating disorder. However, there is a scarcity of studies that analyze the relationship between gambling disorder and emotional regulation difficulties in women.

Problem Gambling As An Alexithymia Symptom

Another construct that has been related to emotional regulation is alexithymia, which is understood as the poor ability to analyze, describe, identify, and differentiate one's own and others' emotional states. People with alexithymia have a hard time regulating their emotions correctly. Experts agree that people with problematic gambling behaviors have difficulties identifying emotions as a consequence of a deficit in emotional awareness, likewise, they report difficulty accepting affective states. Some previous studies suggest that women with alexithymic traits could be more prone to develop problematic or pathological gambling behaviors, since gambling could have a regulatory function of emotional states. Previous studies carried out in adolescents without differentiating by gender have shown that alexithymic traits may be associated with problematic gambling behavior. However, there is a scarcity of studies that analyze this problem taking into account gender differences. In conclusion, the literature seems to indicate that women with a gambling addiction present a greater exposure to stressful life events, greater difficulty in emotional regulation and higher levels of alexithymia.


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Cristina Varela Galan
Cristina Varela Galan
5 December 2022 13:42