Psychology Ph.D. Dissertations

Gambling Disorder and Comorbid PTSD: Pathological Dissociation as a Mechanism of Clinical Severity

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Joshua B. Grubbs (Advisor)

Second Advisor

Neal G. Jesse (Other)

Third Advisor

Howard Casey Cromwell (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

Annette M. Mahoney (Committee Member)


Research suggests that pathological dissociation, emotional vulnerability, childhood maltreatment, cluster B personality traits, and traumatic life events are all related to the increased clinical severity of Gambling Disorder (GD) when comorbid with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). These factors are also suggested to comprise a clinical profile of this dual diagnosis. Pathological dissociation may underlie the link between GD and PTSD symptom severities and influence the nature of this association. These notions were tested twice with two independent samples, one among a sample of 111 college student gamblers and 376 online community gamblers. Results from bivariate correlations and multiple hierarchical regression models supported the relationship between the above-mentioned factors on the severity of GD and PTSD symptoms. However, the moderation effect of pathological dissociation on the positive association between GD and PTSD symptom severities was not significant. These findings provide support for the factors suggested to comprise the clinical profile of GD and comorbid PTSD. While pathological dissociation may not be an essential component influencing the magnitude and/or direction of the link between GD and PTSD, it may still act as a catalyst contributing to increased disordered gambling. The implications of these findings on future research and on the treatment and etiology of this dual diagnosis, as well as the limitations of these findings, are discussed.