As a dually diagnosed person myself, my recovery friends know it has been difficult for me to put into words how it feels to live and maintain my 10+years in recovery from gambling addiction while having mental health challenges.
So I enjoy having special guests here when I can that can write and explain it a “wee bit better” than I can. I welcome Author, Nicola Smith, and special thanks to Maegan Jones of Healthline.com for putting us together!
Catherine Lyon “-)
What is Dual Diagnosis?
Dual Diagnosis is a relatively new concept in the addiction recovery field. Up until the 1990s, people experiencing symptoms of a mental health disorder such as anxiety attacks, depressive episodes, delusional behavior or mood swings were often treated separately to people who sought treatment for addiction. In some cases, when conditions overlapped people were required to get clean or sober or overcome their gambling addiction, for example, before they could be treated for mental illnesses.
Mental health illnesses associated with gambling addiction
With recent findings that substance abuse and addiction are often driven by underlying mental health illnesses, people with a Dual Diagnosis have been unable to get the help they needed in decades’ past. The Office of Applied Sciences at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration (SAMSHA) within the United States Department of Health and Human Services reported in 2002 that only 12 percent of the 4 million American adults suffering from a Dual Diagnosis received treatment for both conditions.
Patients with a Dual Diagnosis are referred to as having a co-occurring disorder. The most common mental health illnesses associated with gambling addiction are depression and anxiety, as outlined by Dr. Jon Grant — Professor of Psychiatry & Behavioral Neuroscience at the University of Chicago and supervisor of an outpatient clinic for those with an addictive-impulsive disorder. Symptoms of being impulsive and risky are also seen in those with gambling addictions, according to Dr. Grant.
Mental illnesses that often co-occur with gambling addiction include depression, bipolar disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and anxiety. In cases of people addicted to gambling who also experience depression or anxiety, the hope of fun that rolling the dice or spin of a slot machine can make depression and anxiety worse over time.
A recent survey of more than 43,000 Americans found, that 76 percent of people with a gambling addiction suffered from depression while 16 to 40 percent experienced lifetime anxiety. Also within the group, 24 percent had a lifetime prevalence of bipolar disorder and 20 percent had symptoms of lifetime prevalence of ADHD.
Which occurs first?
The finding that many people with gambling addictions also have other mental health conditions has raised questions among healthcare professionals — which occurs first? Is it that pathological gambling occurs as a result of a person experiencing another condition and turning to gambling for an escape? Or, could a person suffer financial and relationship problems due to excessive gambling consequently developing depression?
A recent study of 10,000 Americans found that gambling addiction occurred before the onset of another disorder 25 percent of the time while a gambling disorder occurred after another disorder was already present 75 percent of the time. Although further studies are needed to clearly determine the order between gambling addiction and co-occurring mental health illness, the connection between the two indicates that Dual Diagnosis treatment is one of the most effective approaches to recovery by treating addiction and mental health illnesses concurrently.
How does treatment work?
Dual Diagnosis treatment involves a combination of the most effective treatments for mental health illnesses and addiction. Where there once would have been a line drawn between mental health and addiction, these conditions are now treated as part of a continuum. With the recent rise in Dual Diagnosis treatment, healthcare professionals who work in addiction treatment can now undertake training and certification in the treatment of co-occurring mental health illnesses. Dedicated facilities are now also offering recovery services specializing in treatment for Dual Diagnosis people.
Treatments such as medication, cognitive behavioral therapy, and support for Dual Diagnosis patients with an addiction to gambling and mental health illnesses recognize and treat the person’s addictions and illnesses with a continuum focus, putting them in a better position to make a full and long lasting recovery.
Helpful and Informative Resources:
An Introduction to Co-Occurring Borderline Personality Disorder and Substance Use Disorders, 2015, Office of Applied Sciences at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service’s Administration (SAMSHA), https://newsletter.samhsa.gov/2015/03/03/
Dual Diagnosis Treatment, 2017, DualDiagnosos.org,
Kessler RC, Hwang I, LaBrie R, et al. DSM-IV pathological gambling in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Psychol Med. 2008;38(9):1351–60.
Petry NM, Stinson FS, Grant BF. Comorbidity of DSM-IV pathological gambling and other psychiatric disorders: results from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. J Clin Psychiatry. 2005;66(5):564–74.
Recent Facts and Statistics on Dual Diagnosis, 2017, Michael’s House, http://www.michaelshouse.com/dual-diagnosis/facts-statistics/
Roads to Recovery from Gambling Addiction, Volume 2, 2019, National Center for Responsible Gambling, http://www.ncrg.org/
What Clinicians need to know about Gambling Disorders, Volume 7, 2012, National Center for Responsible Gambling, http://www.ncrg.org/
About The Author:
With a keen interest in holistic health and wellness, Nicola Smith works with heart-centred female entrepreneurs in the health and wellness industry, providing copy that engages to help grow their businesses. Her goal is to help women increase their impact on the world, build the business of their dreams, and inspire others to simplify their lives, pack a suitcase and book a ticket to somewhere they’ve always wanted to visit or live. You can also follow her adventures and join her FB Group on Instagram @luggagelifestyle