Journal of Gambling Studies

, Volume 31, Issue 4, pp 1179–1199 | Cite as

The Application of an Etiological Model of Personality Disorders to Problem Gambling

  • Meredith Brown
  • J. Sabura Allen
  • Nicki A. DowlingEmail author
Review Paper


Problem gambling is a significant mental health problem that creates a multitude of intrapersonal, interpersonal, and social difficulties. Recent empirical evidence suggests that personality disorders, and in particular borderline personality disorder (BPD), are commonly co-morbid with problem gambling. Despite this finding there has been very little research examining overlapping factors between these two disorders. The aim of this review is to summarise the literature exploring the relationship between problem gambling and personality disorders. The co-morbidity of personality disorders, particularly BPD, is reviewed and the characteristics of problem gamblers with co-morbid personality disorders are explored. An etiological model from the more advanced BPD literature—the biosocial developmental model of BPD—is used to review the similarities between problem gambling and BPD across four domains: early parent–child interactions, emotion regulation, co-morbid psychopathology and negative outcomes. It was concluded that personality disorders, in particular BPD are commonly co-morbid among problem gamblers and the presence of a personality disorder complicates the clinical picture. Furthermore BPD and problem gambling share similarities across the biosocial developmental model of BPD. Therefore clinicians working with problem gamblers should incorporate routine screening for personality disorders and pay careful attention to the therapeutic alliance, client motivations and therapeutic boundaries. Furthermore adjustments to therapy structure, goals and outcomes may be required. Directions for future research include further research into the applicability of the biosocial developmental model of BPD to problem gambling.


Problem gambling Personality disorder Borderline personality disorder Literature review 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Meredith Brown
    • 1
  • J. Sabura Allen
    • 1
  • Nicki A. Dowling
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  1. 1.School of Psychological SciencesMonash UniversityMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of PsychologyDeakin UniversityBurwoodAustralia
  3. 3.Problem Gambling Research and Treatment CentreUniversity of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia

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