The Impact Of Gambling On Mental Health


Gambling is a popular form of seemingly harmless entertainment that caters to people of varying preferences, including casino slot machines, card matches, lottery tickets, and sports betting. The addictive nature of gambling comes from the 'what-if' possibility of winning it big, even when the odds of winning a prize are severely against the person betting. A chronic gambling habit has been discovered, by one study, to have a biopsychosocial impact. This includes worsened symptoms of personality and obsessive disorders, depression, anxiety, and the development of specific triggers.

Gambling And Anxiety

Gambling is often used as a distraction to relieve symptoms of anxiety. Individuals frequently report a mental detachment from their anxiety triggers while gambling. Alternatively, people have reported using gambling as an outlet for their anxiety in the form of excitement. Over time, the desire to gamble can overtake a person's life when multiple aspects of their life become a source of anxiety. Managing a gambling problem when anxiety is the trigger requires lessening the anxiety itself before the gambling habit can be addressed.

Gambling And Depression

The desire to continue gambling, even during a losing streak, is stimulated by the body's production of endorphins and adrenaline. The effect of gambling is similar to the 'high' produced by drug use, which sets the reward system in the brain into high gear. However, surprisingly, a gambling tolerance does develop over prolonged exposure and becomes less pleasurable. To offset this conditioning, chronic gamblers will feel the need to take more extreme risks, betting more money for a higher payout, to keep their brain's reward system stimulated.

Gambling And Stress

Much like anxiety, gambling is an outlet for people under stress to distract themselves from the tension they're experiencing. In fact, in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, nearly half of the individuals receiving treatment for gambling addiction reported that stress and other negative states of mind were a strong driving force that pushed them to gamble. However, a 'boomerang effect' becomes prevalent over time; the desire to gamble increases with more stress, creating more stress in return, particularly financially. In turn, gamblers will bet even more to compensate for their losses, which triggers a worsened addiction and serious gambling debt.

Gambling Addiction Statistics

  • Nearly half of all slot machine players have a compulsive gambling habit. They also have the highest rate of addiction.
  • Over three-quarters or 77% of all gambling addicts, utilize online play.
  • Compared to the overall population, there is a 15x more tremendous increase in suicide rates among compulsive gamblers.
  • A gambling debt of at least $300,000 is a problem for 3% of Americans with a gambling addiction.
  • Men have a higher rate of gambling addiction than women, at 1.5-2x more likely.
  • Internationally, the country with the worst gambling problem is Latvia.
  • In the United States, the state with the highest population of gambling addicts is Oaklahoma, at 6.2% of the total population.