Harvard Mental Health Letter

Anxiety and gambling

Anxiety can fuel a gambling problem. A book offers advice.

Gambling and anxiety often go hand in hand. The 2001–2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions, as well as other research, suggests that among people with the most severe type of gambling problems — what mental health professionals label pathological gambling — more than 11% are dealing with a generalized anxiety disorder, almost 15% are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, nearly 22% are dealing with a panic disorder, and 52% are struggling with a specific phobia.

Many people gamble as a way of managing anxiety. As they gamble, people often report being separated from their anxious feelings or projecting their feelings of anxiety onto the excitement they feel when they partake in their gambling activity of choice. As a result, gambling can work its way into the fabric of their everyday life, and the impulse to gamble can overwhelm the rest of their lives.

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