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Depression and Gambling Addiction


Depression and gambling addiction are two potentially devastating disorders that often go hand-in-hand. Gambling addiction is characterized as the inability to resist the impulse to gamble, even when doing so has a detrimental impact on one's life. Depression is a common mental condition that is characterized by persistent feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and a lack of interest or enjoyment in activities. Let’s take a further look into how depression and gambling addiction interact with each other.

How Gambling Affects the Brain

When a person gambles, their brain releases chemicals such as dopamine and endorphins, which create a feeling of pleasure and excitement.

When gambling becomes an addiction, it can lead to changes in the brain's structure and function.

These changes can affect the way the brain processes emotions, making it more difficult to control impulses and making it more likely to seek out the pleasure or excitement of gambling.

Gambling addiction can also lead to changes in the brain's reward system, leading to an increased need for the behavior in order to feel good (also known as tolerance).


Overall, gambling affects the brain in very similar ways to drug use. When a person with a gambling addiction tries to quit gambling, they may experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Is Gambling a Mental Health Issue?

The thing with gambling is that there are always underlying issues that drive the compulsive gambling behavior. These underlying issues could be financial stress, or mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. Gambling addiction and depression tend to fuel each other, resulting in a vicious cycle of gambling because of depression, and experiencing heightened depression due to the amount of gambling.

Does Gambling Addiction Cause Depression?

In some circumstances it can be hard to determine which came first - the gambling addiction, or the depression.

If depression was not already present in a person’s life, gambling can definitely lead to a variety of difficult situations that can cause depression.

Financial loss, relationship problems, social isolation, loss of a job, are just some examples of the damage that gambling can cause.

If depression is already a factor, gambling can certainly worsen the symptoms of depression.

When a person first starts gambling, it can have a positive effect on mood. However, over time, gambling addiction causes gambling to become less pleasurable, and your natural mood set-point drops, which can increase feelings of depression.


Additionally, the act of gambling itself can release chemicals in the brain that can create a sense of pleasure or excitement, and when this is not followed by a reward, it can lead to feelings of disappointment, sadness, and hopelessness.

Due to the despair and hopelessness that it can cause, gambling addiction has the highest suicide rate among all addictions.

Why Do People With Depression Gamble?

People who struggle with depression turn to gambling for a number of reasons, including:

  • Gambling helps them cope with negative emotions or to escape from feelings of sadness, hopelessness, or worthlessness.

  • Gambling can provide a temporary sense of accomplishment and euphoria.

  • Gambling can provide a sense of accomplishment and a feeling of control.

  • Gambling provides a temporary boost in self-esteem.

Treating the Underlying Causes of Gambling Addiction

When seeking treatment for a gambling addiction, it’s important to not only treat the gambling behavior, but also any underlying causes of the addiction. This approach is also referred to as dual diagnosis treatment.

In most cases, there are underlying mental health conditions, such as anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder, which makes a person more likely to gamble.

Some possible approaches to treating the underlying causes of gambling addiction include:

Therapy: Therapy can help the individual identify and start working through the underlying issues that may be contributing to their gambling addiction. This may include addressing issues such as stress, anxiety, depression, or past trauma that they are trying to escape from.

Lifestyle Changes: Making lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, eating a balanced diet, and improving communication with loved ones can be natural ways of easing these underlying symptoms.

Treatment program: The best way to treat both the gambling addiction and the underlying causes, is to attend a treatment program where professionals who are specifically trained in treating gambling addiction and mental health disorders can guide you through the recovery process.

Why Are People With Gambling Addictions Reluctant to Get Help?

Like with any addiction, gambling addiction comes with a heavy societal stigma. Some people may view gambling as a personal weakness or a lack of self-control, and this stigma can make it difficult for people who are struggling with gambling to seek help. People who struggle with compulsive gambling may feel intense shame about their addiction, and the things they have done to fund their addiction. They may find it difficult to admit their addiction to others, because they fear what the consequences may be. Gambling is also such a normalized behavior, that many gambling addicts may not realize that the frequency at which they gamble is actually a major issue. They see other people gambling and are surrounded by gambling ads that they don’t consider their own gambling to be a problem.


Get Help for Gambling Addiction

Fortunately, your brain has a remarkable ability to repair itself, and recovering from gambling addiction and underlying causes is absolutely possible.

At Algamus Gambling Treatment Services, we have a full staff of gambling counselors, therapists, and psychiatrists, who have immense expertise in treating gambling addiction and its underlying causes.

Our residential treatment program, located in the scenic town of Prescott, Arizona, is the perfect place to solely focus on your recovery, away from any distractions.

To learn more about our program and how we can help, speak to our gambling counselors.

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