Current psychological therapeutic approaches for gambling disorder with psychiatric comorbidities: A narrative review

Enrique Echeburúa, Pedro J. Amor, Montserrat Gómez



Background. Although the presence of a gambling disorder (GD) together with another mental disorder poses special treatment challenges, such as relapses, severe outcomes for patients and families, and increased number of hospitalizations, there are only a few critical reviews in the literature.

Objective. To review empirical evidence of psychological approaches to cope specifically with these dual disorders.

Method. A narrative review of the relevant bibliography on this topic was carried out. A systematic search of original articles (2010-October 2017) was conducted in MEDLINE and PsycInfo. Key terms were: 1. gambling/gamblers, 2. treatment/intervention/therapy/therapeutics, and 3. dual diagnosis/comorbidity.

Results. Current treatment for GD involves a number of different options, including inpatient treatments, intensive outpatient therapy, individual and group cognitive-behavioral options (CBT), self-help groups, and pharmacotherapy. Inpatient care is generally limited to patients with severe acute crises, treatment failures, and severe comorbid disorders, particularly depression and attempted suicide. Treatment for GD with other mental disorder needs more research. CBT, motivational enhancement therapy and self-help groups have some empirical support when GD is comorbid with other addiction, mood disorder, or schizophrenia. Programs that combine pharmacotherapy and psychosocial treatments for GD into a single comprehensive package are most likely to have good treatment outcomes, at least with regard to treatment retention.

Discussion and conclusion. Interventions should be tailored to the needs of the patients. Future research should be concerned about the statistical power of the studies, implement motivational strategies for patients with poor medication adherence, and design measures to study treatment fidelity in the CBT groups.


Gambling disorder; comorbidity; therapeutics; psychological treatment

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