Psychiatrists link gambling addiction to depression

Mental health experts have urged Nigerians addicted to gambling to seek help, noting that gambling addiction should not be ignored because it could lead to serious mental health problems.

Gambling addiction, they warned could trigger depression and anxiety, adding that it could even spark suicidal thoughts. Gambling, especially sports betting, has become more popular in Nigeria, in recent times, with the establishment of many sports betting companies. Many Nigerians, both young and old have now embraced sports betting.

The experts noted that unknown to many people gambling addiction may have dire mental health consequences if not properly and promptly addressed.

They explained that gambling addiction is often fuelled by the quest for a shortcut to wealth due to a lack of the tools for upward social mobility, adding that it usually becomes a habit over time.

They also explained that there are people who engage in compulsive and social gambling. Compulsive gambling, they said, stemmed from addiction while the latter is just a harmless social habit, adding that gambling addiction could be influenced by parents, friends, peer pressure, and could also be triggered by some medications.

Speaking with PUNCH, the experts, United Kingdom-based Psychiatrist, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust, Dr. Jide Jeje, and Clinical Psychologist and Assistant Registrar, Redeemers University, Joshua Ogunsemi, said that it is in the best interest of the society to address the remote and immediate causes of gambling addiction and them.

Dr. Jeje said that sometimes people gamble because they are hoping to hit the jackpot and provide a better life for themselves and their families without consideration for their present socioeconomic position.

He said,

“It may be just a chance of winning big money. Some, however, gamble because it is fun and they use that avenue to socialise with friends and peers. People who see gambling as fun could also maybe describe it as exciting and thrilling. It can equally be a hobby or a pastime for some people and can be used to escape boredom while some people gamble to escape stress.”

“However, compulsive gambling or gambling addiction is usually when the habit of gambling becomes largely uncontrollable and compulsive and it causes financial distress with potential sociological complications like getting into debts that they cannot repay”.

While noting that there can be more than one reason why people gamble, Dr. Jeje reiterated that having close relatives, especially parents who gamble, can encourage people to go into gambling at a very young age.

The consultant psychiatrist added that while peer pressure from friends can spur interest in gambling, some medications can also trigger gambling behaviour, disclosing that examples of these medications include steroids and drugs for treating Parkinson’s disease.

Gambling, Jeje said, affects the part of the brain that releases a ‘feel good’ hormone called dopamine which creates a feeling of pleasure and reward.


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