OCD and Gambling

Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) is diagnosed in approximately 2.5 million adult Americans. The anxiety disorder is characterized by generally unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors and/or urges that people who struggle with it cannot control.

While OCD presents many challenges, it needn’t prevent someone from thriving and achieving success in any field that they are passionate about. Well-known people with OCD include the likes of Howie Mandel, Charlize Theron, and Justin Timberlake. American aerospace engineer, business magnate, and film producer Howard Hughes also had OCD, as did Albert Einstein. The list goes on and on, and confirms that nary a lifestyle or designation is off-limits to someone with OCD. However, there is one identity that someone should not assume when they have OCD – that of a gambler.

OCD and gambling together can have a severely detrimental affect on one’s life. If you live with the anxiety disorder and participate in casino gaming and sports betting it’s time to quit. Please keep reading.

Why Someone with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Should Avoid Gambling at All Costs

Proven Link Between OCD and Gambling Disorder

Researchers at Yale, Veterans Affairs Medical Center report that that individuals with severe OCD behaviors are more likely to meet diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder (GD). Data compiled by Kindbridge Behavioral Health from the Colorado Military Veterans Project also found comorbidities between OCD and gambling, with a 42% prevalence of OCD in the group with GD. The Yale study also found that the overlap between problem gambling and OCD appears to be genetic in nature. This aligns with data from the International OCD Foundation with reports that OCD does run in families, and that genes likely play a role in its development. Meanwhile, genetic factors also play a role in gambling disorder. While the studies above reference America’s veteran population, please note that this relationship applies across all adult populations. The American Psychological Association (APA) confirms that among the personality disorders that cooccur with problem gambling, OCD appears to be the most common.

Can Elevate Symptoms of OCD

In addition to unreasonable thoughts and fears that lead to repetitive behaviors and/or urges (obsessively cleaning, checking locks at night, etc.) symptoms of OCD include the following:

  • Aggressive thoughts and behaviors toward others or oneself
  • Uncontrollable desire to place things in symmetrical or in “perfect” order
  • Word repetition
  • Compulsive counting
  • Silent (to oneself) word or phrase repetition
  • Unwanted sexual impulses

Some of the symptoms are also found in those who suffer from GD. For instance, anger and irritability are symptoms of problem gambling that can have a detrimental impact on one’s life. The implications of anger and irritability (GD) combined with aggressive thoughts and behaviors towards others (OCD) are clear. Meanwhile, aggressive thoughts about oneself are particularly concerning when you consider gambling suicide statistics. OCD related unwanted sexual thoughts and impulses are also concerning for someone with GD, as GD has a cooccurring relationship with compulsive sexual behavior.

There is further complication to be found with compulsive counting as a symptom of OCD. Arithmomania is characterized by an intense preoccupation with numbers and a compulsion to engage in repetitive counting. This could draw someone with OCD (who has the counting compulsion) to certain table games in a casino, making it hard for them to pull away, especially if it leads to initially rewarding outcomes that correlate to card counting.

Lastly, it’s important to reiterate that people with OCD struggle to control their obsessions or compulsions, even when they know they’re excessive. This fact alone confirms with great authority that OCD and gambling don’t mix.

Cooccurring with Other Mental Health Concerns

OCD and problem gambling cooccur with other mental and behavioral health disorders. These include the following:

  • Mild to severe depression
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Social phobia
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) 
  • Substance abuse disorder
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

While the issues above are not caused by OCD or GD, the fact that they often occur along with OCD and gambling disorder makes treatment significantly more challenging.

Kindbridge Behavioral Health is America’s leading online support platform for problem gambling and cooccurring disorders such as OCD. Our specialists can provide you with a customized treatment plan that other counseling services are not equipped to offer. If you have OCD and are concerned about your relationship with gambling, reach out via the contacts provided below.

Let’s Talk About Your OCD and Relationship with Gambling

CALL +1 (877) 426-4258


Email [email protected]

OCD and Gambling