Gambling and Mood Disorders


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money, property or other possessions) on an event with a chance of winning something else of value. Several activities can constitute gambling, including:

The act of gambling involves risk and uncertainty, so some people may experience problems if they engage in it too frequently. Problem gambling can impact health, relationships and work performance. It can also lead to legal problems, financial hardship and homelessness. The NHS website offers information on how to reduce harmful gambling behaviour and seek treatment if necessary.

A person’s culture and community can influence their attitude towards gambling, and whether they recognise that their behaviour is causing harm. For example, some cultures view gambling as a desirable pastime and social activity, and this can make it difficult to recognise a problem. Moreover, certain people are genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity, and these biological factors can influence how individuals process reward information, control impulses and weigh risk.

For some, gambling is a way to relieve boredom, stress or depression. It is also a form of escape, and can provide an opportunity to try out new skills or learn from mistakes. It is often portrayed in the media as fun, glamorous and exciting, and this can encourage some people to gamble. Alternatively, gambling can be used as a coping mechanism to avoid dealing with painful emotions, such as anxiety or grief. For this reason, it is important to address any underlying mood disorders that could be contributing to compulsive gambling.

In the past, psychiatric professionals have generally viewed pathological gambling as a type of impulse-control disorder, similar to kleptomania or trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in what many are calling a landmark decision, the American Psychiatric Association has moved this diagnosis to the category of behavioral addictions in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5).

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help treat problem gambling by changing unhealthy gambling habits and irrational beliefs. It can teach you how to fight gambling urges and solve the financial, relationship and employment problems that may have contributed to them. In addition, therapists can help you address any underlying conditions that contribute to your addictive behaviour, such as depression or anxiety. They can also recommend self-help books or support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Additionally, physical activity can help reduce the craving for gambling and improve overall well-being.