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Is It Normal to Get a Headache When Gambling? Or Have Other Physical Symptoms of Distress?

By Randy Ray in General
| December 21, 2017 12:00 am PDT
Person With a Headache Roulette Wheel

The racing heart. The sweaty palms. That tingling sensation that comes when the blood is roaring through your body.

Gambling can be quite a rush. You feel it in your skin, you feel it in your gut, so why shouldn’t you be feeling the pain in your head, too?

It’s common for people to get headaches while gambling, just like it’s common to get sweaty hands when gambling.

Whether it’s “normal” to get gambling headaches is another matter entirely.

When Gambling’s Not Fun Anymore

Gambling is a $5 billion business in America, and millions of people gamble to relax and have fun.

For those who gamble regularly, however, it can begin to take a toll. Those who gamble frequently commonly experience some of the following stress-related symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Ulcers
  • Body aches
  • Headaches

These symptoms can begin to appear even during non-gambling times–chronic stress that comes back repeatedly.

It’s supposed to be recreation, but gambling involves real money.

And that means it can go from fun to stressful in a matter of moments.

When money hits the table, the fun suddenly turns serious, and this is what creates a stress response. The constant stress and pressure associated with gambling manifests itself inside your body in multiple potentially harmful ways.

Headaches are an early sign that the stress of gambling is already starting to wreak havoc on your body.

But it doesn’t mean you have to walk away from the table forever. You can enjoy gambling the right way–without putting up with the stress headaches that come along with it.

When Gambling Is an Addiction

Experiencing headaches while gambling can be a sign of addiction. Migraine headaches, symptoms of depression and anxiety, have been observed in people who gamble habitually. In 2012, more than 5 million people in America actively received treatment for gambling addiction. This suggests the problem is even more widespread than this.

Millions are affected by gambling addiction every year, which means that millions of people are experiencing headaches and other stress-related issues that cause real, physical pain.

Compulsive or addicted gambling can lead to an increase in overall stress, feelings of guilt, and loss of sleep—all of which can create severe health problems, including frequent headaches. Stress-related headaches and intestinal disorders are commonly seen in gambling addicts.

Over time, the pain becomes chronic, and it can affect normal day-to-day activities.

Stressful Gambling

A 2002 study that researched alcoholism and pathological gambling (among other addictions) studied the mental health statistics of addicted gamblers. Of those being treated for gambling addiction, 11% were also suffering from generalized anxiety disorder, 15% were suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and almost 22% were experiencing panic disorders.

These issues may be symptomatic of the gambling itself, but it may also be due to the specific personality types that are drawn to gambling. People who are already prone to stress and stress-related disorders may be drawn to gambling to try to relieve their anxiety.

It usually only ends up making the problem even worse. This leads to a vicious circle of pain, and that’s a real headache.

Give Up the Gambling?

Some people do experience gambling addiction that can lead to severe personal and financial trauma, not to mention health problems.

But for millions of other people, gambling is an enjoyable hobby that they want to continue to pursue. If you’re gambling responsibility, there’s no reason you should not be able to enjoy wagering. There’s also no reason that you should be suffering with headaches that are brought on gambling activities.

Experiencing signs of stress, like headaches, doesn’t mean you must give up gambling completely. You should, however, determine whether you’re addicted to gambling or if you are able to enjoy it in a way that is not personally harmful or financially threatening.

Stop gambling completely for one month.

If you find that you can do this easily, you can probably assume that you are not addicted to gambling.

But if you find yourself wagering or betting in any way and cannot stop yourself from doing this, seek out a professional opinion to determine whether you’re compulsive about gambling. You may need treatment to help you overcome this compulsion. Through the course of this treatment, the gambling- and stress-related headaches should go away as you get better.

Those who are gambling in a responsible and recreational way can treat their stress-induced headaches and other anxiety symptoms on their own, without the aid of professional help. Gambling is going to happen, and there are ways for people to enjoy it without experiencing the stress-related symptoms of it. If you’re having headaches during your responsible gambling time, the first thing you need to do is learn how to relieve stress so you can enjoy gambling again.

Gambling can be a healthy and positive way to pass the time—if you aren’t doing it compulsively. Learn how to beat the stress that comes with gambling, and it will start to be fun again.

Relax Your Muscles

Stress doesn’t just affect your mind. It also has a physical effect on you.

The opposite is also true. The more relaxed your body is, the less stress your mind will be feeling.

Practice progressive muscle relaxation to relieve physical stress. Your mind will start to clear as well.

To use progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress, start at the bottom of your body: your feet. Tighten and then relax your toe muscles until they feel nice and loose.

Work your way up to your legs, your stomach, your arms, and finally your neck and head. Progressively tighten and then release each muscle group until your whole body feels more relaxed.

You should physically feel the difference after you relax and release your muscles.

Loose, relaxed muscles will make you feel less stressed out and relieve the symptoms of anxiety that are often brought on by gambling. You can practice this type of muscle relaxation even while gambling, and you can use this technique from any position to reduce your overall stress. T

Try practicing this technique before you start gambling. You’ll feel looser and more relaxed. If you start to tense up during the game, start tensing and relaxing your muscles all over again.

Wear loose, comfortable clothing when gambling. Take special care to wear comfortable shoes. If you’re physically uncomfortable, this is only going to amplify your stress level and make anxiety symptoms worse.

Dress casual and think casual. Your body will be looser as a result. Keep heavy thoughts off your mind, and remember that you are gambling to have fun and relax. Start associating gambling with relaxation in your mind, and gambling will begin to cause you a lot less stress.

Breathing Exercises

Simple breathing techniques can create a world of difference inside your body and do a lot to relieve that stress that’s causing you pain and problems while you gamble.

Start by sitting up straight, so you can engage your entire chest and stomach.

Breathe in deeply through your nose, and exhale through the mouth.

Engage your stomach muscles while you breathe, so you can take in even more air. You should feel your stomach move as you inhale and exhale.

Breathe slowly and deeply. You’ll notice that you begin to feel more relaxed with each long breath that you exhale. This type of deep breathing is a very easy way to counter anxiety and banish stress, and you can do it around others without them noticing.

Deep breathing is a well-known technique, but that doesn’t mean it works for everyone. You can also try focused breathing to beat stress. Simply pay attention to your breath as you take in air through your nose and release it back through your mouth. Breathe the way you normally would, but pay attention to the sensations of your breathing. Think of nothing else. Focus only on each breath you take, and on quieting your mind.

If you focus on your breath like this for just a few moments, you’ll notice that your thoughts become much clearer and you will physically feel less tension in your body.

Find a Happy Place

It’s a plot often used in comedy movies, but it works. Visualization is a basic relaxation tool that’s been used for decades. It’s effective.

When you start to notice signs of stress or pain caused by anxiety, mentally place yourself somewhere else. Visualize different surroundings and see yourself there. Picture something peaceful or soothing and focus on this.

The more you practice visualization, the better you’ll get at it. Soon, you’ll be able to hear the sounds and smell the scents of the place you’re envisioning. Keep your visualized space free of any stressors, and make it a place only for peace and relaxation.

If you get good at it, you will be able to put yourself in this relaxed environment any time you want.

Stress Reduction When Gambling

Staying relaxed increases the blood flow to your brain, slows the heart rate, and stabilizes your blood pressure. These are all things that will help you make calm, rational decisions that aren’t rushed or induced by anxiety, and that is exactly what you want when you’re gambling.

Stress will negatively affect your decision-making process, and it may cause you to act in a rushed or thoughtless manner.

That’s bad.

When you’re gambling, you need to maintain a clear head and great focus.

Turn relaxation during gambling into an automatic response. Begin your relaxation exercises, and then think about gambling at the same time. This will help your mind associate gambling with relaxation, and soon you will approach the table feeling more relaxed, more confident, and more in control.

Learn to relax and reduce stress before, during and after your gambling activities, and you’ll notice that not only are you enjoying yourself more, but you’re making better decisions while you’re gambling. Be aware of your own body and your own stress. Soon staying relaxed while you gamble will become second nature.


It’s common to get headaches while gambling or engaging in any high-pressure situation.

But above all, gambling is meant to be fun.

If you’re getting headaches and feeling stressed, then you aren’t having any fun.

So is it “normal” to get headaches while doing something fun?

No, it isn’t–but it’s something that happens to almost everybody.

Ignoring the signs of stress created by gambling will only make the problem worse over time. Headaches can be an early sign that you’re about to experience insomnia, intestinal discomfort, and irritability that can occur at any time, whether you’re gambling or not.

Stress will negatively affect you in all sorts of everyday ways, and can even have a bad impact on your relationships and daily interactions. The stress you experience when gambling can carry over into the rest of your life. Start learning how to beat it, and this doesn’t have to happen.

Treating the symptoms of the stress is not an option, because this will lead to more headaches and more problems with anxiety. Treat the stress itself and make it go away. This is the only way to enjoy gambling in a healthy way that isn’t ultimately harmful to your mind and body.

Enjoy gambling again, and work on relaxation methods. You can practice stress-reducing techniques even when you aren’t gambling. Try simple steps to relax any time you start to feel yourself tensing up.

The more you practice, the easier it will be for you to relax on command and when you’re at the table — when it counts the most.

Stress is the real headache you need to beat. The good news is, you can.



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