Psychology, Department of


Date of this Version



Presented at Nebraska Symposium on Motivation. Lincoln, NE. Apr. 2009. Also available at:


Gambling is fairly common among college age students, with estimates ranging from 15% (Kerber, 2005) to 42% (LaBrie, Shaffer, LaPlante, & Wechslet, 2003). Furthermore, gambling among college students is associated with a variety of negative consequences, particularly for men (Engwall, Hunter, & Steinberg, 2004). Despite this, less is known about psychological factors linking gambling among college age students.

In a recent study conducted among college students, the relationship between pathological gambling and psychological variables (e.g., alexithymia) was examined. Findings indicate that psychological variables like alexithymia might be a noteworthy risk factor to problem gambling (Parker, Wood, Bond, & Shaughnessy, 2005).

Alexithymia is characterized by a difficulty identifying and describing feelings, externally oriented thinking and limited imaginal capacity. Alexithymia has been linked with behavioral problems such as pathological gambling (Parker et al, 2005), trauma (Frewen, Pain, Dozois, & Lanius, 2006), and the onset and maintenance of several psychiatric disorders (Lumley, Neely, & Burger, 2007). Despite this, little is known on how alexithymia scores among gamblers might be influenced by psychological factors associated with alexithymia (e.g., trauma).

The relationship between trauma and alexithymia is well pronounced. For instance, among individuals with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a subset are identified as alexithymic (Frewen, et al, 2006). Furthermore, a history of trauma may also affect the severity of alexithymia presentation (Frewen, Lanius, Dozois, Neufeld, Pain, Hopper, et al, 2008). Lastly, gender differences between trauma and alexithymia have been observed, including among male combat with PTSD (Frewen, Dozois, Neufeld, & Lanius, 2008).

Given findings on the relationship found between gambling–alexithymia, alexithymia-trauma, and trauma-gender, the purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the interactive effects of gambling (high/low) and trauma (high/low) on alexithymia scores for male and female college students.