Among the factors that are thought to underlie gambling problems, alexithymia has been recognized to contribute to their development. For the first time, we reviewed the literature on the relationship between alexithymia and gambling. A systematic search of literature was run in the major reference databases including PubMed, Cochrane Database for Systematic Review, PsycINFO, Web of Science, Scopus until April 2019. The search produced 182 articles that produced 20 papers included in the review. Fourteen studies were conducted with community samples of pathological gamblers while six studies with clinical samples of disordered gamblers. All studies assessed alexithymia with the Toronto Alexithymia Scale while gambling problems were assessed mostly with the South Oaks Gambling Screen. Alexithymic features were significantly more prevalent in pathological gamblers both at the community and clinical levels, increased symptom severity, and showed interactive mechanisms with personality, psychiatric, and cognitive factors. Alexithymia is likely to associate with gambling as a coping behavior to increase emotional arousal and avoid negative emotions, according to the affect dysregulation model. Further studies are needed to widen the knowledge on this association.
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