Gambling and Mood Disorders


Gambling is a form of entertainment wherein participants wager on an uncertain outcome. This can take place in games of chance, such as the rudimentary tiles found in ancient China, or in activities that involve some skill, such as betting on horse races and stock market outcomes. Gambling is also an international commercial activity involving a significant amount of money and, as a consequence, can affect people’s lives in many ways. It may harm their health, relationships, work or studies and can lead to serious debt and even homelessness.

The underlying etiology of gambling behavior is not well understood. However, a broad spectrum of research suggests that it involves an element of impulsiveness, along with a number of other factors. These include sensation-and novelty-seeking, arousal and negative emotion. Moreover, there is a strong correlation between a person’s tendency to take risks and their enjoyment of complex or varied stimulation.

For example, a gambler’s decision to risk a small amount of money in exchange for a large potential reward is likely motivated by a desire for the positive reinforcement associated with high levels of uncertainty. This is the same kind of impulsive motivation that underlies drug taking and other risky behaviors. Similarly, gambling may provide an outlet for the emotions associated with loss, such as anger, depression and anxiety.

In addition, there is a clear link between gambling and an individual’s ability to control their impulses. People who are unable to control their gambling have been identified as a group at high risk of developing an addiction. However, understanding why these people find it difficult to control their gambling habits is still a challenge.

There is a growing consensus that a diagnosis of pathological gambling (PG) should no longer be made on the basis of symptoms alone but that a combination of behavioral and psychophysiological signs of a person’s psychiatric condition is needed to make a diagnosis. This change in approach has been partly driven by the development of diagnostic criteria for PG in the newest editions of the DSM, the handbook used by mental health professionals to diagnose psychological disorders.

Those who are struggling with a gambling problem should consider seeking help for any mood disorders they may have. Untreated mood disorders like depression and anxiety can trigger or worsen gambling problems and are a common cause of compulsive gambling. Getting treatment and support can help individuals overcome these conditions and break the gambling cycle. Inpatient and residential treatment programs are available to those with severe gambling problems. These programs provide around-the-clock care and supervision to help people recover from their gambling addiction. They also offer support and education to help them reintegrate into their communities once they are ready. These programs are often more effective than outpatient treatments for those with a severe gambling disorder. They may also have a lower relapse rate than outpatient treatments for those with less severe gambling problems. This is perhaps because inpatient or residential treatment programs focus on the underlying issues that contribute to a person’s inability to control their gambling behavior.