Gambling and Mood Disorders


Gambling is the act of betting something of value – usually money or personal belongings – on the outcome of a contest of chance, such as lotteries, races or any event where results depend on chance rather than skill. Games of chance include lotteries, races and any event where luck plays a part in determining its results; other forms of gambling include placing bets with items with value but aren’t real currency such as marbles, Pogs or collectible game pieces (Magic: The Gathering Online); as well as betting against odds in sports competition or political elections.

People gamble for many different reasons – to win money, socialise with others or escape problems or stress. Unfortunately, for some individuals gambling can become an addiction – people with gambling addiction often become secretive about their behavior, concealing evidence of betting from family and colleagues as they attempt to recover losses incurred from previous wagers – having devastating repercussions for both families and work lives alike.

Gambling addiction is linked with poor mental health and depression. People living with mood disorders tend to develop gambling issues at some point; reports have even surfaced suggesting there might be a link between depression and gambling addiction. Studies on mood disorders and gambling addiction have also demonstrated this relationship, often coexisting together and with depression often preceding pathological gambling behaviours.

Gambling’s appeal lies in reward uncertainty: whether that be in terms of jackpot size or chance, gambling activities that produce unpredictable outcomes release dopamine in response, reinforcing behavior and maintaining an addiction for those hooked on it; this release likely contributes to high-risk, thrill-seeking behavior associated with gambling as well.

Research indicates that gambling disorders are likely influenced by both biological and environmental factors, with environmental influences playing a larger part. There’s also evidence linking gambling with mood disorders like depression, anxiety and stress; such conditions may trigger or worsen gambling problems and make matters worse. Therefore it’s crucial that anyone struggling with gambling seek assistance to address their condition as soon as possible.

If you find yourself struggling with gambling disorders, contact your GP or therapist for support. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) may prove effective in treating these issues. CBT is a form of psychotherapy that addresses your thoughts about betting as well as any associated feelings and behavior when gambling. CBT may also address underlying mood disorders that contribute to gambling behavior – you can find a therapist through BACP’s online search tool. If you find yourself in financial turmoil, StepChange provides free debt advice, while Samaritans provide emotional and practical support – you can call their helpline 08457 90 90 90 or visit one of their branches near you for emotional and practical assistance. Alternatively, other charities and organizations, like GamCare provide counselling and support services specifically targeted towards those experiencing gambling issues.