Underlying Depression and Gambling Addictions: What are the Connections?

Depression and Gambling and the gambling chips

Depression is a neurochemical funk! The brain’s serotonin, dopamine and other neurochemical levels get off balance. This results in the typical expressions of depression: [1]

  • Depressed mood in the day
  • Diminished pleasure in daily activities
  • Affected body weight and appetite
  • Sleeping little or a lot
  • Challenges in controlling movement
  • Loss of energy
  • Feelings of extreme worthlessness and guilt
  • Reduction in concentration and thinking ability
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

You might not notice all of these symptoms when you are depressed but you will feel, well, rather low! Depression could have come about through a number of routes but it leaves you craving something to make you feel better. A depressed brain will quickly pick up on neurochemical that lift mood—like those experienced in gambling.

Depression and Gambling

Addictions are caused by a number of factors but stating it simply: we want to feel better and when we do, we want more of what made us feel better!

Couple the drive to feel better with the reduced ability to make wise decisions whilst depressed and gambling is dynamite. If you are depressed you may not be making money, and gambling offers this. You may be feeling bad about yourself, and gambling could offer success. You may be too tired to get out, and gambling can come to you online.

The truth is, there are a number of powerful potential links between depression and gambling.

Most of the links I have mentioned so far work in a similar pattern. They trap the brain into needing the neurochemicals produced by risk, thrill or desperation. The neurochemicals of your brain collude with the situations of life to make gambling seem like a compelling solution.

Unfortunately the brains reward circuits can become desensitized and then dramatically altered by addiction. Gambling first provides a boost, and then later a trap.

Gambling Coming Before Depression

Another potential connection is that gambling itself could come before depression. The addictive nature of gambling can effect healthy brains and trap them just the same.

Roulette Wheel with Chips Gambling

A person who is perfectly happy could find themselves stuck putting more resources into gambling and create a stress inducing situation in their life.

Stress and depression are “best buds”! Prolonged stress responses make us very vulnerable to depression, again because of neurochemicals.

Whether the depression or gambling came first there is a route out off both. The very first things to consider are how to resolve any situational problems like finances, and cutting off access to addictive behaviors.

As you do this depression may increase and so I recommend building in healthy mood boosting activities and behaviors right from the beginning of recovery.

There are trained professionals who know the path out of gambling and depression. Please find one if you feel trapped or worried about how these two things may be linked in your life.



[1] Adapted from: Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders: DSM-5. (2013). Washington, D.C.: American Psychiatric Association.

Paul LoosemoreAbout the author: Written by Paul Loosemore, MA PLPC. Paul works as a mental health counselor, and consults with those who wish to recover from Sexual Addiction—He is the founder of www.stopsexualaddiction.com.

The opinions and views of our guest contributors are shared to provide a broad perspective of addictions. These are not necessarily the views of Addiction Hope, but an effort to offer discussion of various issues by different concerned individuals.

We at Addiction Hope understand that addictions result from a combination of environmental and genetic factors. If you or a loved one are suffering from an addiction, please know that there is hope for you, and seek immediate professional help.

Reviewed By: Jacquelyn Ekern, MS, LPC on February 6, 2016
Published on AddictionHope.com

About Baxter Ekern

Baxter Ekern is the Vice President of Ekern Enterprises, Inc. He contributed and helped write a major portion of Addiction Hope and is responsible for the operations of the website.