The Interesting Relationship Between PTSD and Gambling Addiction

ptsd and gambling addiction

Those with gambling addictions are far more likely than the average American to concurrently suffer from a dual diagnosis psychological disorder – such as PTSD. Similarly, it has been proven that those suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder exhibit especially high rates of gambling addiction. In fact, a staggering 34 percent of individuals who seek treatment for gambling addiction display significant symptoms of PTSD. Those with PTSD are prone to developing a wide range of unhealthy coping behaviors, such as eating disorders, substance abuse, and deliberate self-harm. While this has been known for quite some time, the relationship between PTSD and gambling addiction becomes increasingly clear. What is behind this complex relationship, and what can be done for the dually afflicted?

Relationship Between PTSD and Gambling Addiction Becomes Increasingly Clear

Many psychologists believe that sufferers of PTSD, specifically war veterans, are drawn to the familiarity of the risk involved in betting with high stakes. The rush of adrenaline that comes with placing a risky wager may provide distraction from invasive thoughts and feelings, and because veterans grew accustomed to literally risking their lives on a daily basis, the potential danger involved in gambling is comfortable and customary.

War Veterans and Pathological Gambling

Medical authorities and addiction specialists alike are beginning to notice an undeniable link between war veterans and pathological gambling. Dr. Joe Westermeyer of the Minneapolis VA Medical Center and Dr. Jose Canive of the Albuquerque VA Medical Center recently conducted a study on the prevalence of gambling addiction in veteran communities, and published their findings in the latest edition of The American Journal on Addictions. “The prevalence rates of gambling problems and pathological gambling among veterans receiving VA health care exceeded those rates reported in the general population by two to four times.” While rates of problem gambling were exceedingly higher than rates of pathological gambling, it is predicted that many problem gambling cases will progress to pathological levels in a short matter of time. Addiction disorders of any kind are typically progressive. The following statistics regarding veterans and problem gambling were cited within the aforementioned study:

  • Studies that focused on veterans who were actively utilizing VA treatment services concluded that upwards of 10 percent were problem or pathological gamblers.
  • 28 percent of veterans hospitalized in a VA psychiatric unit were shown to suffer from a significant gambling problem.
  • Roughly 76 percent of veterans with pathological gambling issues had been previously diagnosed with depression.
  • 40 percent of veterans who have sought treatment for compulsive gambling have attempted suicide in the past.
  • Veterans in treatment for PTSD are up to 60 times more likely to simultaneously suffer from a gambling problem than members of the general public.

Clear Link Between Gambling Addiction and Many Other Psychological Disorders

However, this is not the only psychological disorder that tends to go hand-in-hand with compulsive gambling. Recent studies confirm that gambling addiction and certain other disorders – such as anxiety, depression, and substance dependency – may share an underlying predisposition. In order to maintain long-term recovery, all existing addictive and psychological disorders must be treated simultaneously. For this reason, it is absolutely crucial that those suffering from gambling addiction and any co-occurring psychological disorder attend an inpatient facility geared towards the treatment of dual diagnosis disorders. We at Next Chapter have developed a comprehensive therapeutic program of recovery geared towards men who struggle with a combination of psychological issues, most of which tie in directly to significant past trauma.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Those who engage in compulsive gambling will frequently resort to this behavior to escape uncomfortable emotions and overwhelming, recurring thoughts. The thrill of the bet and the win and the overall distraction of involvement provide temporary relief from symptoms of underlying psychological issues. This is the same root cause of many addictive disorders. Invasive symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, such as nightmares, anxiety attacks, flashbacks, emotional numbness, and hyper-arousal, may be briefly alleviated by the ‘high’ of a win. Of course, the relief is short-lived, and as soon as it fades the individual will begin seeking out the next high. Thus begins the vicious cycle which is psychological dependency. One of our main goals at Next Chapter is to uncover and address all underlying causes of co-occurring psychological disorders, while instilling in our clients the coping skills necessary to tackle uncomfortable emotions without resorting to self-destructive behavioral patterns.

For more information on our dual diagnosis program of recovery, please contact us today.