Mental Health Effects Of Gambling



Gambling has various effects, one of which is on the mental health of the gambler. While it is necessary to know these effects, it is also of utmost importance to know about mental health.

Mental health

According to Erica Thompson, LMFT, LPCC “Mental health struggles are real. They can be painful. You may feel alone. In some of the darkest times, you may feel like something is “wrong” with you to the core.”Mental health is a level of psychological and emotional well-being; it is the state of mind we are in, the way we think, act and even how we feel. It is a very important thing to take note of, and we must be conscious of it at every stage of our life; right from when we are young even up till old age. Having someone to talk to is also very important as it helps to study the state of our mind and it improves our mental health.

While gambling can be addictive and also influencing our mental health; it can be rewarding and risky. It has always been a ticket to end boredom for some people and it makes them feel they are very strong but it can cause anxiety and depression when it becomes addictive. As we take a look at the mental health effects of gambling, we’ll consider its positive side and the risk attached to it too.

The positive effect of gambling on mental health


While it is very risky to one’s mental health, gambling sure does open up a challenge to a gambler’s mental health.

Extensive studies have shown that while people retire and do little or no work like fishing or just resting, those that engage in activities requiring heavy thoughts tend to make effective use of their brain. Those that retire and just stay at home will later have some parts of their brain idle while those that gamble will still make effective use of those parts that might have become idle. Though it is not only gambling that requires heavy thoughts it is worthy of note that gambling does require consistent heavy thought.

As the brain is the center of most of the impulses and reactions, it is also the source of the strength attached to mental health. As long as the brain is in good condition, then mental health is also in the right condition. So, gambling is not all that bad and it does have its positive influence.

It is, therefore, necessary to note, that it is this consistent gambling that might turn out to be an addiction and will lead to the negative side effects. When there’s a feeling of comfort; the addictive pain then comes up and then there’s no letting go. So, what happens to mental health when gambling becomes an addiction?

Negative effects of gambling on mental health


The major effect that rocks the boat of gambling is the effect it has on the mental health of the gambler. While it starts gradually and looks like it’s really nothing, it becomes a thorn in the flesh and harms the gambler constantly.  Let’s take a look at some of the consistent negative effects. “If your gambling addiction has led to severe social, medical, legal and/or financial difficulties, you may need to find an inpatient program to give a jumpstart to your treatment,” says Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist and marriage and family counselor.

  • Depression and anxiety: They are often experienced together because when there’s an expectation as the dice are rolling, it leads t anxiety and then there’s a force of depression that settles in gradually especially when the gambler doesn’t win. Over time, the gambler gets used to it while also beating the mental health of the gambler down.
  • Bipolar disorder: It is also called “manic depression”. It is a mental health disorder that results in periods of elevated mood (hypomania) and periods of depression. It is characterized by these two separate moods; the person feels energetic and is able to tackle or face any situation though he/she might give a poor judgment, then it comes with a feeling of depression and the person feels cut out from the world and behaves seemingly opposite to the way he/she once felt.
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Another negative mental health issue is this disorder that results in not being able to be attentive, being excessively active and having difficulty controlling one’s behavior. It is a rampant disorder that can occur during childhood and can be prevalent in a lifetime but it can also be treated. It also duly affects gamblers after continuous moments with gambling.

It is always nice to look at the bright side of things but it’s even better to consider the flaws and side effects. Though, gambling might have its good side; it is a really terrible activity to get used to. There’s a need to gamble with caution if you are ever going to gamble and there’s a need to watch the signs of addiction or mental health issues as it starts so little and becomes an unquenchable fire. Lillian Harris LCPC-C used to say, “So much of mental health work is about giving people a space to be witnessed and held while sharing the good, the bad, and the ugly of human life.” And she is right.

Dangers Of Gambling



Despite the high level of uncertainty, gambling is very much evident and a lot of people still take an active part in it. From the young to the old, no one is left out of the adventure of gambling. People often get to spend all that they have with the hope of hitting the jackpot on a lucky day.

Present Trend

Gambling has taken an amusing trend with the availability of online sports betting. People can now predict the outcomes of various sports matches on their mobile phones with the hope of earning more than they have invested. Gambling is a very addictive act and can be quite difficult to control or stop. Many gamblers often need the assistance of a therapist to break the gambling addiction.

To make it more fascinating, popular faces and brands are used as ambassadors and sponsors to get more people to be interested in it and while gambling is likely to pay, it is also likely to not pay. But for the zeal to just play and win a massive amount compared to the amount of bet placed, a lot of people join this risky adventure knowing that winning is by chance.

Winning is by chance


No one has accurate details about the certainty of an uncertain issue and so no gambler knows the precise result of a game but they make an assumption that can either be true or false. They make their bets based on their expected earnings then gladly and anxiously await the result of the game or the number on the die.

It might not even yield a positive result the first time, so another trial is imminent and this continues until a slight victory is recorded but a lot of resources will be dumped for a slight victory and only in few instances do winnings come big.

So, what happens when there is no win? Let’s take a look at the dangers of gambling.

Associated Dangers


As much as there can be positive sides to gambling, it is necessary to be aware of the dangers that are associated with gambling.

  1. Loss of money: This is the major danger of gambling, it is as simple as if you don’t win a bet or gamble; your money is gone. Even with this consciousness, a lot of people are not bothered but it is expedient that this danger is considered before gambling as there will be no refund.
  • Addiction: This is one of the very grave dangers of gambling as a trial can convince a person and then trap the person into not letting go, till it gets to the point of a daily routine and a lifetime activity. “A person who is a compulsive gambler can recover with treatment, but it’s hard sometimes for a person struggling with compulsive gambling to realize they need help,” says Natalia S. David, PsyD. Apart from the fact that a person can spend all of his or her money before the day ends on gambling, it has health problems attached too. It can affect the person psychologically and this will result in the person having to receive treatment. 
  • Debts: Gambling can also make a person go deep down into an ocean of debts as there will be a need to get money to gamble even when there isn’t enough again and there will be a need to borrow from others to pay debts because the gamble or bet did not pay. “Sometimes problem gamblers spend the money that should go to food or rent or heat on their habit and spend more time on gambling than with the kids and spouse who need them.” says Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D., a licensed psychologist and marriage and family counselor.
  • Family woes: When there’s a need to spend money on something important, the husband or wife that gambles will impede that and it will result in arguments that can break up a home. The children can also be on the receiving end of the issue as they can be left in the car while their parents gamble at a casino and these will make the child feel forgotten as they won’t have enough time with their parents anymore.  “Because gambling is known to trigger these addiction pathways, it is often considered to be a behavioral addiction – or behavior that can become compulsive over time, causing a lot of harm to people’s lives.” Hailey Shafir, LPCS, LCAS, CCS-I adds.
  • Depression: A lot of things are associated with getting depressed; it could be as a result of losing self-esteem after a losing streak or the feeling of not having enough time to spend with family and attend events because more time will be spent gambling than with the social world. There’s this anxiety that grips gamblers and it’s always there, so when there’s a poor result; there’s a great form of depression.

It is always hard to stop gambling when a very long period has been placed on it. Though some people still get to win and they win big but others are not lucky and it results in terrible things. So, before you take a step towards gambling, take time to also know the dangers because it comes with side effects and you might have been drenched in its guilt before you even realize your existence.

Care For Pathological Gamblers



Problem gambling (or ludomania, usually referred to as “gambling addiction” or “compulsive gambling”) is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop. Pathological gamblers have lost the strength to resist gambling impulses and they just accept the advances made by gambling and head straight on for it.

It is very common for pathological gamblers to feel empty as the only thing of importance is gambling and nothing else appears to matter; it becomes that bad. Then they start feeling ashamed and drift gradually away from people because they can’t stand the sight of people realizing their problem.

It all starts small, and when an activity becomes a habit, the tendency of getting addicted sets in. So, the consistent action results in not wanting to stop and gradually; it’s hard to imagine life without it. Dr. Howard Samuels, PsyD. tells everyone that “Admitting you have a problem is the first step in treating your addiction. However, due to the nature and the danger of this disease, simply just stopping on your own is highly unadvisable.”


Pathological gambling


As explained by Jeremy Frank PhD CADC, a Philadelphia Psychologist & Addiction Counselor “Gambling addiction is often referred to as the “hidden illness” because there are no physical signs or symptoms that accompany it as is the case with many alcohol or drug abusers.” Pathological gambling is a disorder that is being understudied and also progressive; it is highly disabling too. It affects 2% – 3% of Americans and women make up one-quarter of all pathological gamblers. It has been found to be a result of the disorder of impulse control. According to, “Prevalence estimates of pathological gambling have ranged from 0.77% to 3.4% in the US adult population”

It is very evident in males and comes in their early adult years but not very evident in females. Recently, it has become prevalent among females as they are now very much exposed to it and there’s increased accessibility to it.


Below are some of the signs that you’ll notice in people that are pathological gamblers:

  • Anxiety: Always eager to gamble or get involved in gambling activities and then become placed under pressure.
  • Depression: Always cut out from people and in constant thoughts about their losses.
  • Gambling tolerance: They are able to tolerate a level and now seek a greater and higher challenge every time.
  • Dishonesty: Lies surround their every word and the truth becomes far from them.
  • Accumulated debts: They borrow constantly, heaping debts on already accumulated debts.
  • Derailed Optimism: They believe that they will win but you never really truly see them win.
  • Loss: Ranging from job to relationship to friendship. Pathological gamblers lose more than money, they lose a whole of things they once had.
  • Crimes: When they get into debts, they resort to crimes to get the money they crave; and this leads them down the path of crime.

These and much more are the symptoms you’ll notice in pathological gamblers and at this point, they really need help but they will not easily move to get help and would continue to go deep down into their addiction till it’s either too late or till they get help.

Treatment/Care for PG

Though, PG can lead to suicide attempts and even suicide; it is worthy of note that it can be treated and those affected can be cared for. There is really no standardized treatment for pathological gambling, some means have been brought up and are effective for the treatment.

  • Support groups: A very prevalent care for pathological gambling is found in meeting up with people that are also experiencing the problem and opening up so as to get charged to stop. A support group such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is a 12-step program that aims at helping people to overcome the addiction and live free of the addiction.
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT):  is a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy treatment that takes a hands-on, practical approach to problem-solving. Its goal is to change patterns of thinking or behavior that are behind people’s difficulties, and so change the way they feel. It is used to help treat a wide range of issues in a person’s life, from sleeping difficulties or relationship problems to drug and alcohol abuse or anxiety and depression. (
  • Medications: Studies have shown that medications can also treat PG but the study on the particular people that will respond to the treatment is still not accurate yet. It has been found that antidepressants and opioid antagonists (naltrexone) may help treat the symptoms of pathological gambling.

It is going to be very effective if two or more of these treatment types can be used as not one of them is 100% effective. It is never too late to treat PG, and before it becomes out of your power; take that step to help someone or take that step to get it solved. Remember, “Not everyone who gambles has a problem with it. It is important to determine whether or not the other person has an addiction.” Natalia S. David, PsyD said. 

Therapy And Counseling For Compulsive Gambler




Some of the best treatments of compulsive or pathological gambling involve staying close to the patients, offering medication, speaking carefully to the patient, helping them focus, helping them breathe easily and so on.

“Compulsive gambling is a serious addiction that can cause severe consequences.”  That is according to Natalia S. David, PsyD. The treatment of compulsive gambling is diverse and quite effective. Although it can be very challenging because just like in other forms of addiction it is often difficult for patients to admit they have a problem and subsequently take the necessary steps to ensure that they are no longer dependent on gambling.


Acknowledgment and identification of a problem is usually the first step in solving any problem, this is particularly key in treating compulsive gambling everywhere in the world. “Admitting you have a problem is the first step in treating your addiction. However, due to the nature and the danger of this disease, simply just stopping on your own is highly unadvisable,” says Dr. Howard Samuels, PsyD. Some of the most effective treatments have been on those patients who came to the conclusion that they had a gambling problem

If your family or your employer pressured you into therapy, you may find yourself resisting treatment. But treating a gambling problem can help you regain a sense of control — and perhaps help heal damaged relationships or finances.


Although gambling addiction is a serious, potentially dangerous disorder, it can be treated with a combination of therapeutic modalities, recovery resources, and supportive psychosocial services. These therapies and services are available through professional treatment programs that specialize in addressing compulsive gambling, with or without a co-occurring substance use disorder. Treatment may take place at an inpatient facility, where 24-hour supervision and support are provided, or at an outpatient rehab program, which offers greater autonomy and flexibility to clients.

Some of the best therapy and counseling treatment of compulsive gambling include;

  • Individual therapy: This involves a very intimate one-on-one working relationship between the therapist and the patient. It is very effective as it encourages the patient to recognize triggers and learn the best possible way to handle the triggers. The therapist makes use of Motivational Interviewing (MI) that directly engages the patient and produces great results.
  • Group therapy: this is one of the most effective and cheap ways of getting help from compulsive gambling. It brings together a network of people who are going through similar challenges and who are willing to help themselves as well as others to get better. Most times in group therapy sessions, members share their experiences and how they are personally coping and their hopes and dreams. The Gamblers Anonymous and the 12-step programs form some of the best group therapy.
  • Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT): “CBT is a relatively brief, skills-focused treatment that has been shown to be effective for a wide variety of mental health issues, including anxiety, depression, anger, social skills deficits, and relational problems.” Shelby Harris, PsyD, CBSM said. This type of therapy is designed to completely address and change the thought process and consequently destructive behavior of compulsive gamblers. It is designed to change the negative thoughts and behaviors of compulsive gamblers that make them believe that they are closer to a big win that to their next loss. It ultimately replaces such negative and destructive thoughts with positive ones.
  • Family and or couples therapy: The sad truth is that addiction is never really a personal thing as the likelihood that it affects the family whether directly or indirectly is high. Most time the money meant for the family or the kids can be spent on gambling other times it can lead to the breakdown of a relationship and even the home. Involving your family and getting the support you need from them, Strengthens family bonds, reestablishes trust and is quite effective in not only getting rid of an addiction but also ensuring that you do not relapse.
  • In-patient care: A more intensive program may be required if compulsive gambling has resulted in financial, legal, medical and other challenges. The inpatient care typically involves close supervision; individual and group therapy as well as life coaching that is designed to get you back on track.