Gambling and Mood Disorders


Gambling involves putting something of value at risk for the chance to win a prize. Some common forms of gambling include sports betting, lottery games, casino games, cards, pogs and Magic: The Gathering (a collectible game where players wager small discs or trading card pieces). Unlike true games of chance, which are completely random, gambling can also involve skills that improve the odds of winning. For example, a player’s knowledge of strategies may increase his or her chances of winning in certain poker games; and the knowledge of horses and jockeys might improve predictions of probable outcomes in horse races.

People with mood disorders are particularly vulnerable to gambling problems. For instance, depression and anxiety can trigger gambling behavior and make it harder to stop. Compulsive gambling can also negatively affect a person’s family and social life. For these reasons, it is important to seek treatment for underlying mood disorders.

Longitudinal research is crucial to identifying factors that moderate and exacerbate gambling participation. However, longitudinal studies are challenging to conduct because they require a large investment of time and money; there is the potential for researcher bias; and they can confound effects by aging and period effects.

A person who has an addictive gambling disorder can benefit from psychotherapy, which can help identify the underlying cause of his or her problem and provide tools for coping with it. For example, psychodynamic therapy can address unconscious factors that may be contributing to gambling behaviors; group therapy can serve as a source of motivation and moral support; and family therapy can educate loved ones about the condition and promote a healthier home environment.