One key concern, highly prevalent in today’s world is the link between gambling and mental health issues. Through greater accessibility to gambling platforms, activity is at its all-time highest. Yet, so are the diagnosis of mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, showcasing the worrying link between both brain illnesses.

Commonly, those who gamble will chase the buzz, the next win and the thrill of risk. Yet, gambling, even for the most seasoned gambler resembles a rollercoaster, where highs are experienced, soon followed by plummeting lows.

Those lows do resemble mental health side effects, which are known to intensify the necessity of ongoing gambling activity.

Flipping the link on its head, those who suffer from pre-existing mental health issues are known to cope through escapism, by placing their focus elsewhere. Along with substance abuse, gambling activity is seen as a highly populated option, to flee from reality.

However, through the combination of emotions, of experiences, and of risk, the necessity of gambling can turn into an addiction, resulting in a dual diagnosis.

At face value, gambling may initially be controlled, may be seen as sensible, and may be categorised as a hobby. Mental health issues can also be seen as manageable and as your norm.

Yet, once the blurred line and the link between gambling and mental health issues presents itself, here’s where compulsive, habitual and detrimental behaviours can manifest. If you’re struggling to any degree, it’s time to contact Nova Recovery.


Mental health and gambling problems

Gambling fulfils many areas of a human’s life. It provides social interaction, which can in fact be a causation for gambling addiction. It also offers psychological respite, where pressure from reality can be eased, again known as a contributing factor of addiction.

Yet, it also provides positive responses on a biological scale, where artificial dopamine is produced, causing concern for those with pre-existing mental health issues.

In fact, down to the biological rewards that gambling can offer, along with a sense of emotional escapism, it is viewed and used as a common coping strategy through the midst of a mental health crisis.

Many individuals suffering from the likes of anxiety, paranoia and depression will rely on the distraction of gambling, on the community that it offers, on the rewards that it can provide, and on the thrill that it can influence through wins.

Yet, it is important to remember that gambling is in fact a hazardous activity for mental health when ongoing participation is found. This can be very difficult for someone who suffers from low feelings, contradicting thoughts or suicidal emotions.

While in the moment, gambling may be seen as a respite from mental health issues, it will in fact over the long-term aggravate psychological responses, known to aggravate mental health side effects.

Once artificial highs have been experienced for someone with low levels of dopamine, those highs will be aimed for, motivating the unknown development of an addiction. This is how dangerous gambling can be for someone with a pre-existing mental health issue, securing the strong yet damaging link of a dual diagnosis.


By looking into the link between gambling and mental health, even further, it’s easy to see how those who gamble excessively are at risk of developing mental health symptoms. As gambling can resemble a whirlwind, where a win can influence positive escapism, can influence an overdrive in the reward system and can make life much easier, that exact result can drive attachment and greed, which are dangerous while heightened.

On the other end of the scale, losses can be detrimental, as chronic gamblers will continue to gamble, no matter the consequences, with the aim to reach those rewards. It can take a long period for a win to materials, which over time, will contribute to the development of an addiction.

Down to the uncontrollable and unpredictable results of gambling, it’s clear to understand how it can induce negative thoughts, low moments and anxieties; all of which will cause cognitive weaknesses, resulting in a dual diagnosis.

A common way to see whether gambling has reached a point of risk when considering mental health issues is to consider the impact of consequences.

If gambling activity is pursued, even if funds are non-existent, even if relationships are breaking down, even if crime-related activities are selected to source funds, this is an indication that compulsive outlooks have taken over, which is linked to the vulnerabilities of mental health conditions.


The dangers of a dual diagnosis

A dual diagnosis is very dangerous, as ultimately, individuals will be battling two standalone brain illnesses. In order to ease mental health issues, they will continue to gamble. Yet, through this action, even greater mental health issues can develop, which fuels the ongoing cycle of addiction.

Concerns over a dual diagnosis are focused on the already pressured functionings of the brain, which can lead to even greater fixations and cognitive impairments. High risk of substance abuse, of irrational behaviours and of suicide risks are also linked to a dual diagnosis.

Living with a dual diagnosis is very difficult. Overcoming one is also just as challenging. This speaks volumes of why understanding the link between gambling and mental health issues must be gauged and recognised as serious. If you’re struggling with either condition, it’s time to consider dual diagnosis treatment.


Dual diagnosis treatment

To overcome mental health and gambling problems, a proactive approach must be followed, known as dual diagnosis treatment. Here’s where a range of treatments will be utilised to suppress the link between both problems, along with treating each standalone brain illness.

A crossover of treatment services may be recommended, with a large focus on exposure therapy, talking therapies, cognitive behavioural therapy and accountability sessions.

Yet, depending on personal experiences and struggles, along with side effects and initial causations, the degree of gambling addiction treatment will differ, which will also be the case for cognitive realignment.

Tackling the link between gambling and mental health issues is necessary as, as we’ve recognised above, there is a chronic correlation between both, which if enabled, will heighten the characteristics of each other.

This can be a difficult experience to live through, where the cycle of addiction and the downfalls of mental health issues can turn detrimental, damaging, and into a heavily reduced quality of life.

To combat a dual diagnosis, contact our team at Nova Recovery, here to help you understand your actions, responses and coping strategies while working through mental health and gambling problems.

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John Gillen - Author - Last updated: September 8, 2023

John has travelled extensively around the world, culminating in 19 years’ experience looking at different models. He is the European pioneer of NAD+ (Nicotinamide Adenine Dinucleotide) treatment to Europe in 2010; and recently back from the USA bringing state of the art Virtual Reality Relapse Prevention and stress reduction therapy. His passion extends to other metabolic disturbances and neurodegenerative diseases. The journey continues. In recent times, John has travelled to Russia to study and research into a new therapy photobiomudulation or systemic laser therapy working with NAD+ scientists and the very best of the medical professionals in the UK and the USA, together with Nadcell, Bionad Hospitals own select Doctors, nurses, dieticians and therapists. Johns’ passion continues to endeavour to bring to the UK and Europe new developments with NAD+ Therapy in preventive and restorative medicine and Wellness. In 2017 John Gillen was made a visiting Professor at the John Naisbitt university in Belgrade Serbia.