Anxiety and Gambling

The National Institute of Mental Health reports that more than 19% of the U.S. adult population suffers from an anxiety disorder. The number is so large because there are a half-dozen designated anxiety disorders. You can reference the comprehensive list here. The intent of today’s article is to instead draw your attention to the most common among them – generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). The Anxiety and Depression Association of America states that GAD affects over 3% of adults, which equates nearly 7 million people.

The causes of GAD are more nuanced than with other disorders such as PTSD. Experts suggest that the following are likely causation factors:

  • History of GAD in one’s family (GAD is thought to be hereditary)
  • History of stressful or traumatic experiences (i.e. domestic violence, child abuse, bullying, etc.)
  • Chronic (often painful) long-term health condition/s
  • History of substance abuse
  • Environmental stress
  • Hormonal imbalance

It is certainly possible to live a complete and fulfilling life with GAD. Professional counseling, meditation, healthy lifestyle choices, and even a change of vocation and relationship status (where applicable) can clear the way to enjoy all the world has to offer without “worry” hanging over your head. That being said, there are two related activities that you must not seek supposed pleasure from; casino gaming and sports betting. Anxiety and gambling are a bad mix that could hinder your desire for a healthy state of mind. What’s the connection? Why should gambling be avoided if you have GAD? Let’s review.

Why Individuals Who Struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder Should Avoid Gambling

Confirmed Association Between Anxiety and Gambling Disorder

Anxiety and Gambling

Whether due to people seeking relief from the symptoms of GAD (listed below) by immersing themselves in casino gaming or sports betting, or there is another connection, it has indeed been confirmed that GAD and gambling disorder (GD) are cooccurring mental/behavioral health conditions. Studies on community samples have found the lifetime prevalence for GAD among problem gamblers to be between 11.2 and 16.6%. This is significantly larger than the 3% prevalence of GAD in America’s general population. This data alone suggests that anxiety and gambling make bad bedfellows. But there’s more.

Can Aggravate Symptoms of GAD

Anxiety and Gambling

The symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder include (but are not exclusive to) the following:

  • Constant worry and inability to relax
  • Insomnia and poor sleeping habits
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Muscle tenseness
  • Chronic headaches
  • Constant sweating (even hot flashes)
  • Trembling and twitching
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea
  • Frequent urination (aka “anxious peeing”)
  • Loss of concentration and focus
  • Compromised decision making ability
  • Easily startled
  • Anger and irritability

It’s a long list, isn’t it? Sufferers of GAD want to do all that they can to keep symptoms from manifesting and disrupting their life at any given moment. This is why casino gaming or sports betting as an “escape” is a bad idea, as people who have a problematic relationship with gambling experience some of the very same symptoms. Cooccurring symptoms of GAD and GD include insomnia, chronic fatigue, compromised cognitive function, anger, and irritability. All of these may be aggravated when someone with GAD develops a compulsive gambling habit. And ironically (for the intent of today’s feature) anxiety itself is a symptom of gambling disorder. Lastly, we must address that research has found an association between generalized anxiety disorder and suicide attempts. Connect that finding to these startling gambling suicide statistics and you can see why anxiety and gambling should not be in the same proverbial room.

GAD and GD Cooccur with Other Mental Health Concerns

Generalized anxiety disorder and GD cooccur with other mental and behavioral health disorders. These include the following:

  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Social phobia
  • Substance abuse disorder

As mentioned in the introduction, GAD can be effectively managed with professional counseling (see below), meditation and relaxation techniques, and lifestyle changes. However, GAD management becomes more complicated when gambling disorder is piled on. Now consider how development of a GAD treatment strategy can be further challenged by the existence of one or more of the mental and behavioral health disorders. Simply put, don’t gamble with anxiety, figuratively and literally.

Kindbridge is America’s leading online support platform for problem gambling and cooccurring disorders such as generalized anxiety disorder. Our specialized therapists can provide you (or a loved one) with a customized treatment plan that other services are not qualified to provide. If you have mild-to-severe anxiety and are concerned about your relationship with gambling, reach out via the contacts provided below.

Let’s Talk About Your Anxiety and Relationship with Gambling

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]

Anxiety and Gambling