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Gambling Addiction and Other Psychological Disorders

A. Tom Horvath, Ph.D., ABPP, Kaushik Misra, Ph.D., Amy K. Epner, Ph.D., and Galen Morgan Cooper, Ph.D. , edited by C. E. Zupanick, Psy.D.

Psychological disorders can play a role in the formation of any addiction. This includes gambling addiction. Sometimes these problems preceded the addiction and the addiction served as a coping tool. Sometimes they developed after addiction.

Regardless of why these problems occurred, people must learn to address them.  Specifically, gambling disorders have high rates of co-occurrence with:  1) substance use disorders, particularly alcohol use disorders; 2) depressive disorders; 3) bipolar disorders; 4) anxiety disorders and 5) personality disorders, particularly anti-social personality disorder.  In this context, gambling may represent an attempt to relieve symptoms of other psychological disorders.  Addiction professionals often call this self-medication.  If these underlying disorders are not identified and treated along with the addiction, the risk of relapse remains quite high.

Moreover, up to half of the people in treatment for gambling disorder report suicidal thoughts, and 17% have attempted suicide (APA, 2013).  Because of this increased risk, people with gambling problems should be monitored for suicide.  If you, or someone you love is even remotely considering suicide, the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 is a 24/7 hotline that can provide help and assistance.

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