Associated Addictions & Disorders

Problem gambling can be difficult to manage and that difficulty is exacerbated if the gambler also has an associated alcohol or drug addiction or mental health problem.

It has been suggested that as many as 1 in 5 problem gamblers in Australia also have a problem with alcohol dependency. Overseas research has established that problem gamblers are more likely to have problems with drugs than the ordinary population. One American study found that half the problem gamblers seeking treatment were suffering from a major depressive disorder or other mental health problems such as schizophrenia, antisocial personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

These problems may easily be overlooked when a person encounters a gambling-related crisis. The person with the gambling problem, counsellors, family and friends are focussed on responding to the gambling-related concerns such as debts and may overlook the existence of the associated disorder.

Although not an addiction, depression is commonly associated with problem gambling. Depression can both result from problem gambling and exacerbate it. The problem gambler may experience a strong desire to gamble during times of depression. Symptoms of depression include:

  • A depressed mood most of the day
  • Diminished interest in pleasure
  • Significant weight changes
  • Difficulty in sleeping
  • Fatigue or loss of energy
  • Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
  • Diminished ability to think or concentrate

Alcohol or drug use may also occur in conjunction with gambling. After consuming excessive alcohol or drugs the problem gambler is drawn to gamble. After losing money gambling, the gambler feels an urge to consume alcohol or drugs.

People seeking to overcome a gambling problem should seek assistance from a doctor or other appropriate health professional if they suspect they may also have problems with depression, alcohol, drugs or mental health issues.

The likelihood of the gambling problem being satisfactorily managed is much greater if these associated problems are addressed at the same time as counselling for the gambling problem. Doctors increasingly have an understanding of gambling problems and often work together with gambling counsellors to assist those who have more than one condition. It is therefore a good idea to seek medical assistance as well as gambling counselling when depression, another addiction or disorder may also be present.

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