, Volume 21, Issue 4, pp 363-378

The Relationship among Negative Affect, Distress Tolerance, and Length of Gambling Abstinence Attempt

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The present study tested the theory that negative affect and one’s ability to tolerate distress is associated with failure to quit gambling during an abstinence attempt. Specifically, 16 current pathological gamblers who had at least one sustained period of gambling abstinence lasting a minimum of 3 months (i.e., delayed relapsers) and 16 current pathological gamblers who had never remained abstinent for a period longer than 2 weeks (i.e., immediate relapsers), were assessed for baseline levels of negative affect and stress reactivity, as well as faced with a psychological (mental arithmetic) and physical (breath holding) stressor. Compared to the delayed relapsers, the immediate relapsers displayed higher levels of negative affect and stress reactivity. Immediate relapsers also were less likely to persist on the psychological stressor, suggesting that one’s ability to tolerate the initial discomfort of an abstinence attempt may play an important role in gambling treatment outcome.