Depression & Gambling


So notorious.

Depression and gambling (or gambling and depression) go hand-in-hand.

Like kleptomaniacs who steal items not for monetary gain, addicted pokie (slot) machine players gamble not to win but to feed the machines.  They no longer see the value of money and every piece of twenty (fifty or hundred) dollar note is like a piece of paper going through the shredder.  They would play until they lost every cent and come out of the local pub or casino feeling emotionless and penniless.

For many gamblers the brain can enter a trance-like state while gambling, and so the everyday problems of life recede.

“People gamble to escape bad relationships, or work pressures — a range of perceived problems, but some are obviously gambling in an attempt to escape from the sadness, anxiety and other troubling thoughts that are the symptoms of a mental illness,”

Quote – Professor Shane Tomas, Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre 

Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand has the below definition of gambling.

Problem gambling refers to gambling that significantly interferes with a person’s life, especially with their finances, their job, and their relationships with partner, family, and friends.

Pathological gambling is the most severe form and is classified as a mental disorder similar to drug abuse. It includes features of tolerance, withdrawal, diminished control, and relinquishing of important activities.

At-risk gambling refers to a level of gambling that is not currently causing significant financial or emotional harm to the gambler, but is likely to become problem gambling if it continues.

Affected others are people who are harmed by someone else’s gambling— usually partners, family, whanau, and friends. This can take many forms, such as financial repercussions for the whole family, unhappy home life, alienation from family and friends, and crimes committed against employers or other people.

Pokie machines are designed to make money and make you forget the outside world. They use dark backgrounds and deep but bright colours to attract and stimulate your brain. They use sound and light at random times to disorient you and trigger the near- miss effect to get you hooked.  When you get a win (free spins), the cheerful background music makes you excited and you lost track of time.

Did you know?

  • When a pokie machine gives a false impression that you “almost won” it will trigger the same areas in your brain as if you had really won. These are also the same areas which are involved in drug addiction!
  • No matter what you do to a pokie machine, you cannot change what it is programmed to do. A pokie machine is a computer designed to take in more money than it pays out; there is no skill or trick to cheat it.

“The paradox with gambling is that if you win, you lose. If you lose, you lose. If you win, the high consumes your mind until you’re back in action.  If you lose, you crash and chase your losses to regain that high.”

– quote unknown

Some people regard gambling or playing the pokies as a form of entertainment.  This is so only if one goes to the machine with a limit.  For problem or pathological gamblers, when gambling becomes a financial or emotional harm to them or those around them,  the act is no longer a harmless leisure pursuit.  It is a pain and addiction that is difficult to stop.

Know the signs and seek help.


Let’s hope these symptoms are only evanescent. May they melt away as quickly as they come.


You don’t need that thing, and you can afford to buy it, but you can’t help yourself.  You secretly took that item without paying.

You did it !  It gave you pleasure and you do it again and again.  You went on a stealing spree and that became a habit.  That habit precipice and it appears like you are overhanging on an extremely steep mass of rock, such as a crag or the face of a cliff.  You are in danger with disastrous results.

You are more than a petty thief.  You are labelled a serial shoplifter but you are in fact a kleptomaniac.

Kleptomania is a condition in which an individual experiences a consistent impulse to steal items not needed for personal use or monetary value.   Kleptomania involves experiencing tension before the theft and feelings of pleasure, gratification, or relief when committing the theft.

The age of onset for kleptomania is variable. It can begin in childhood, adolescence, or adulthood and in rare cases, late adulthood.  Kleptomania is rare overall, but more common in females than in males.  Evidence indicates that kleptomania may be related to,  or a variant of,  mood disorders such as depression.

The cause of kleptomania remains unknown but risk factors include a family history of kleptomania or other impulse control disorders.

No cure exists, but treatment with talk therapy and medication such as antidepressants may help end the cycle of compulsive stealing.
I wrote this article after reading an article in The Straits Times (Singapore) that a former engineer facing eight charges of theft was found dead, a day before her pre-trial conference for the latest theft spree.
A very sad ending to a sickness that has no cure.

Only temporary

often conjures up feelings of instability or uncertainty.

Something to be avoided.

can take you out of your comfort zone,
where you have to be more aware of your surroundings,
other people, and your actions.

Life is no longer on auto-pilot.

Temporary is not comfortable to many people,
but a healthy dose, helps you to appreciate who you are,
what you have, and what is missing in your life.

Fear not of any bitter situation for they are only temporary.

Don’t let any setbacks bring you down,
they are supposed to build you up !

Live life to the full, pursue your dreams.

Contributed by guest blogger, B.Silcock