Gambling and Mood Disorders

Gambling is a risk-taking activity where participants wager something of value on an event that involves chance, usually with the intention of winning money or other prizes. It is often a social practice and is bundled with other socio-cultural constructs such as rituals, mateship, social status and thrill and adventure (see the section below on Practice Theory). While there is a wealth of gambling research focusing on individual behaviour and addiction, the wider socio-cultural and commercial contexts that shape this behaviour deserve greater attention.

Often, people gamble because they think they have a good chance of winning and that it will give them a feeling of excitement and euphoria (linked to the brain’s reward system). Many people also see it as a way to socialise with friends, relax or take their mind off other problems. They may even be prompted to gamble by advertising that portrays gambling as fun, glamorous and fashionable.

It is common for problem gamblers to feel the need to be secretive about their gambling and lie about how much they spend, or to continue gambling even when they are losing money, in the hope that they will somehow hit it big and win back what they have lost. They may also experience symptoms of mood disorders such as depression, stress or anxiety, which can trigger gambling problems or make them worse if not treated.

If you are concerned about your or someone else’s gambling habits, the CU Boulder Counseling and Psychiatry Service offers free virtual counseling and psychiatry appointments through AcademicLiveCare. You can learn more about these services and schedule an appointment by clicking the button below.