Date of Award




Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Department of Psychology


Clinical Psychology

Content Description

1 online resource (ii, vi, 108 pages) : illustrations.

Dissertation/Thesis Chair

Edelgard Wulfert

Committee Members

Elana B Gordis, Julia Hormes, Zhimin Cao


Addiction, Cortisol, Dehydroepiandrosterone, Gambling, Nicotine, Stress, Stress (Physiology), Stress (Psychology), Gamblers, Cigarette smokers, Smoking

Subject Categories

Biological Psychology | Clinical Psychology | Psychiatry and Psychology


Addictions, both substance and behavioral, have been conceptualized as having similar biopsychosocial processes with different opportunistic expressions (Shaffer et al., 2004). Biological processes such as the hormonal response to stress as measured by cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and the ratio of the DHEA/cortisol may be among the variables underlying the disposition to develop an addictive disorder, regardless of whether it is a substance-based or a so-called behavioral addiction. The current study aimed to examine whether physiological and psychological reactions to stress are similar in high-frequency smokers and gamblers. The subjective (urges, cravings) and physiological responses (skin conductance and heart rate) of heavy smokers, problem scratch-off gamblers and healthy controls were measured in response to smoking or gambling cues versus neutral cues, once under normal conditions and again after exposure to a social stressor. Stress hormones (salivary cortisol and DHEA) were repeatedly measured during the procedures. Cigarette smokers and problem gamblers showed a similar blunted cortisol response to the acute stressor that differed from the response of the control group. Subjective craving in smokers increased following a stressor compared to non-stressed cue exposure, whereas gamblers experienced a decrease in subjective urge following the stressor. A higher baseline DHEA/cortisol ratio predicted higher subjective and physiological arousal to active cues, but was associated with lower gambling and smoking severity.