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Feelings and Situations that Precede Gambling Relapse

by: Institute Staff | Apr 14, 2011

Why do so many people relapse when they are trying to stop gambling? It has been estimated that 50 to 75 percent of gamblers resume gambling after attempting to quit (N. M. Petry et al., 2006), but what are the thoughts, feelings and situations that precede these events? Researchers who study alcohol and drug abuse — disorders with similarly high rates of relapse —  have developed a questionnaire designed to answer these questions for their audiences. A recent study published in the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology attempts to validate this same type of questionnaire for people with gambling disorders (Nancy M Petry, Rash, & Blanco, 2010). The new study attempts to extend and validate Petry’s previous work adapting the Inventory of Drinking Situations for gambling situations (called the Inventory of Gambling Situations, IGS).

The researchers gave the IGS to 283 people seeking treatment for alcohol and drug abuse who were also identified as problem or pathological gamblers. The IGS asked respondents how likely they were to gamble, on a 1 to 4 scale, in response to each of 47 different situations. The situations described the following types of scenarios:

-   Emotional situations: “When other people treated me unfairly”

-   Physical conditions: “When I would have trouble sleeping”

-   Thought cues:“When I would start thinking about all the money I owe”

 The researchers used statistical analysis to group similar questions together and to find out how much of the variance in gambling behavior was explained by each group of questions. The first group contained questions about negative emotions (e.g. “When I felt tense or nervous”) and explained 24.6 percent of the variation. The second group contained questions about positive emotions (e.g. “When I would be relaxed and wanted to have a good time”) and explained 15.2 percent of the variance in gambling behavior. The third group contained questions about gambling cues (e.g. “When I would see an advertisement about gambling”), and explained 9.5 percent of the variance. The final group contained questions about social situations (e.g. “When I was with friends and they were gambling”), and explained 8.3 percent of the variance.

All together, the IGS accounted for 57.6 percent of the variance in gambling behaviors found in the sample. This kind of information can be used by therapists to help clients identify what feelings and situations can lead to relapse. It is also possible that gamblers who are having problems, but have not yet progressed to a clinical gambling disorder, may be able to avoid more serious gambling problems by being aware of the feelings and situations that can trigger gambling behavior.

More information about the article is available on the website of the journal Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology. Do you have thoughts or questions about prevention and treatment of gambling disorders? Tell us in the Comments section below.


Petry, N. M., Ammerman, Y., Bohl, J., Doersch, A., Gay, H., Kadden, R., Molina, C., et al. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral therapy for pathological gamblers. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 74(3), 555-67. doi:2006-08433-015 [pii] 10.1037/0022-006X.74.3.555

Petry, N. M., Rash, C. J., & Blanco, C. (2010). The Inventory of Gambling Situations in problem and pathological gamblers seeking alcohol and drug abuse treatment. Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology, 18(6), 530-538. doi:10.1037/a0021718

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HI I also see the correlation

I also see the correlation mention in your reseach (IGS) and think that in our society so many unhealthy behavior created are so readily available. We are dealing with multi- addictive disorder behaviors.  Besides the chemical(alcohol and drugs) coupled with the gambling disorders there are a great number of eating disorder and nicotine (smoking) disorders that continually triggers the gambling disorders for satisifaction. To interject into the three (3) area’s mention (EPT) our treatment to the problem gambler should also mention these facto.
Walter Lucas MA PGS, LADCI, CAS 

Speaking as a compulsive

Speaking as a compulsive gambler, there are as many reasons to relapse as there are stars in the sky, if I had to speak for only myself, it would add up to three things: time, opportunity and money.
Even after 5 years of sobriety, I keep myself in check, by limiting the amount of money I have available to me, banned all my debit and credit cards from the casino cash machines, I keep myself accountable to my friends and family, by always letting them know where I am, and when I can be expected to return.
If I am near or around a gambling place, or pass one one the freeway, I may call a friend and ask about how they are doing, or a family member to remind me of why I don’t gamble anymore. I have stopped asking why I get the urge, the better question, is what todo when you get one.

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