Does Sports Betting Cause Mental Problem?

Keywords: Sports betting, gambling, casino, lottery, addiction, mental problem.


Does Sports Betting Cause Mental Problem? What makes gambling a disorder?  How does gambling disorder come about? What are the mental health effects of problem gambling? Can those with gambling disorder be treated?

This topic will capture gambling in general. And sports betting is a form of gambling. The person(s) involved take conscious risks with the hope of gaining from the game. It is actually a contest of uncertainty whereby the result is determined by chance.

Most people, who gamble, do so on recreational basis. And they stake money with the hope of gaining more money if their predictions are correct. But for others gambling is a disorder.

Gambling is now more accessible via smart phones. And people use their credit cards to gamble through the apps. This internet mobile technology has popularized gambling.

There are three main types of commercial gambling. One is the sports betting, the casino gambling and lottery.

In sports betting, people stake money on the result outcomes of popular games. Such games include football (soccer), basketball, football, boxing, horse racing, car racing, etc.

Casinos make use of slot machines to match symbols to create opportunities for people to win money. In Nigeria it is known as kalo kalo.

The lottery game is also popular in Nigeria and it involves the random picking of numbers for a price.

The games and the environments are designed to get people addicted. The chances of winning are very slim.

In Nigeria:

The popular gambling in Nigeria is the sports betting game, which is followed by lottery. And there are various sports betting outlets in Nigeria.  There are about 50 sporting companies in Nigeria, with 20 of them registered by the Lottery Regulatory Commission (NLRC). This is according to

A research paper in Nigeria made an estimated number of Nigerians engaged in soccer bets to be about 60 million. It also wrote that every 4 in 10 Nigerian play some type of sports betting.

Unfortunately, for some people, gambling is not just a recreational past time. For such people, it affects their way of life, negatively to become an addiction. Thus the need for this topic ‘Does Sports Betting Cause Mental Problem?’

What makes gambling a disorder?

Gambling becomes a disorder, when it leads to a persistent and recurrent gambling behavioral problem. This problematic behaviour, affects the way the person functions at home, school, work or in the society.

Gambling gives the person such an excitement, that he will increase the money he usually stakes to make more money. He is preoccupied with the gambling to the point that at all times he is thinking of ways get money to play more games. And whenever he tries to cut down or stop the gambling, he gets restless or irritable.

He uses gambling to get relief from any form of stress, anxiety, depression, etc. And whenever he makes a loss in the game, he goes back to gamble, to aim to recover the money. This is called ‘chasing one’s loss.’

The person tells lies about the extent of his involvement in gambling. He also relies on people to give him money for the gambling and to take care of his financial issues. Sometimes he will steal the money so as to fund the betting game.

Gambling disorder is like being addicted to substance. In this manner, the person gambles away everything he owns, and goes into serious debts.

How does gambling disorder come about?

Gambling disorder is due to a combination of biological and environmental factors.

Biological factors.

Genetic issues:

If someone has a family member, more especially the parent(s) who engages in gambling, then this is a risk factor.

Brain structural issues:

For those who engage in gambling, they have a problem with their frontal lobes of their brain. The frontal lobe of the brain functions in the areas of planning, decision making, problem-solving, personality, judgment, etc.

So with problems in their prefrontal and frontal lobes, the person will be unable to make good judgments. He also will be unable to make good decisions. And the person will not be able to plan properly, solve problems, etc. Such a person is more likely to act on impulse.

They also have a problem with another part of the brain called the ventral striatum. This is the area of the brain that processes emotions, like happiness.

In people who gamble, this area of their brain is under functioning. So such a person will go to any length to seek happiness and excitement. And this happiness and excitement is what gambling gives.

Brain chemicals:

Gambling also increases the brain chemical called dopamine. This neurochemical or neurotransmitter gives one that excitement and pleasure.

As the gambler does more and more gambling to get the rush of dopamine, the dopamine gets overused. Tolerance sets in and the person will need to bet more money to get more dopamine rush.

Environmental risk factors.

Mental health issues:

Persons with mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorders, etc. are more likely to engage in gambling. Even those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and those who abuse of substances are also at risk of gambling.

Age issues:

Gambling is more in the younger and middle age group, which in Nigeria is between ages 28 and 40. Unfortunately, when young people do it for fun, they are at risk of having gambling disorder.


In Nigeria, unemployment is a big risk factor for gambling. Ironically this is so because sports betting in Nigeria cost little money, which makes it attractive to the unemployed.

Risks from friends or peer pressure:

If your friend has a gambling disorder, then it is most likely that you too will have it.

Personality characteristics:

Some people with certain personality characteristics are more likely to engage in gambling. These characteristics include, being impulsive in nature, being a workaholic, or having boredom, etc.

Also persons with narcissistic personality disorder and dissocial personality disorder are prone to gambling.


Certain medications, especially some used in some neurological conditions, can be risk factors to gambling.

What are the mental health effects of problem gambling?

Economic issues:

Gambling makes the player indebted and may even lead to bankruptcy and homelessness.

And because it is an addiction, the person can miss his job just to gamble, which can lead to job loss.

Socially issues:

The family relationship is badly affected, because the player doesn’t care for the family and family issues. So this can lead to separation, divorce and poor parenting.

He also loses his old friends and only makes friends with those who also gamble.

Gambling predisposes one to theft and other forms of criminality as well as imprisonment.

Mental health issues:

Those who have gambling disorder experience emotional distress, depression, guilt, anxiety, helplessness, shame, stigma, grief, and self-hatred. They are also at risk of dying by suicide.

Can those with gambling disorder be treated?

Prevention is actually the best. So educating the general populace on the dangers of gambling is very important. The best thing to do is to stay away from gambling centres. Also keep away from befriending people that gamble, even if it is for recreational purposes.

The government has their part to play, by enforcing the ban on the under aged who go into gambling. They should be more concerned about the health hazards of gambling, than being more concerned about the revenue they generate.

Treatment of someone who has gambling disorder is possible. The treatment is usually from a clinical psychologist. The treatment from a psychiatrist is also necessary, if the person has psychiatric issues.

But treatment is usually very difficult for persons who don’t believe that they have a problem. So it is important that the person accepts that he has a problem and that he needs help.

The clinical psychologist will make use of talk therapy, called psychotherapy. And the psychiatrist will use medications. Sometimes physical complications may arise, that requires the treatment of a physician.

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