Day Trading and Gambling: Exploring the Overlap

For years now, people have been discussing the connection between long-term investment activities and gambling. While the two have little overlap, there has been a link drawn between stock investing and gambling. More specifically, high-risk stock activities like day trading have frequently been compared to gambling activities like sports betting and have been shown to encourage the same behaviors as those found in problem gamblers. Here, we will discuss how day trading is similar to gambling and how it can cause issues like indebtedness and poor mental health states like gambling problems can.

Similarities Between Day Trading and Problem Gambling

Research has shown that day trading can cause just as intense and problematic habits as gambling does if it is not managed correctly. Because day trading triggers a release of dopamine in the participant, they feel a pull to come back again and again, even if they are losing more money than they are earning. Before they know it, the day trader can fall into a financially tough spot and may experience depression and self-hatred. This is not all too dissimilar from gambling behaviors that get out of hand.

Let’s take a closer look at how day trading and problem gambling are similar:


People drawn to day trading exhibit some of the same characteristics found in problem gamblers. Both groups are excitement seekers and risk-takers. They also share feelings of overconfidence, an illusion of control, and a pull towards activities with low participation costs but high potential returns.

It is because of these shared characteristics that many day traders have also reported problems with gambling. Any time they participate in a stock exchange or gambling activities, dopamine is released in their brains, which increases their feelings of pleasure and excitement. Even if they are losing more than winning (or earning), they will continually seek out this thrilling sensation. This starts a cycle that is hard to get out of, even when their financial situation depends on them stopping. What began as seeking a minor thrill has turned into an obsession.


Because day trading can become a slippery slope, similar to gambling, many day traders find themselves heavily in debt. One of the biggest ties between online trading and gambling is the inability to set and stick to limits. There’s a disconnection between investing money you cannot physically touch and going into financial debt. Day traders and problem gamblers are not always aware of the real money they are losing until they can’t pay their bills or buy groceries one day. Both problem gamblers and day traders have experienced financial pressures that affect themselves and their households.

Mental Health Concerns

As people become more obsessed with day trading, they may begin to attempt to hide their behavior out of guilt or shame, leading to anxiety. If they start to feel financial stress on top of that, they may become depressed. This pattern of seeking a cheap thrill then not being able to stop even when you are overcome with shame or guilt is the same pattern problem gamblers follow. It’s a tough cycle to break, but with the right help, anyone can find relief.

Signs of a Day Trading Problem

Felicia Grondin, executive director of the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey, said the absence of other things to bet on, such as sports and horse racing, in the early days of the pandemic pushed some gamblers into stock trading platforms that can deliver the same thrill. Her group’s 1-800-GAMBLER helpline experienced an almost 50% increase in calls related to day trading since the start of the pandemic, she said, although the volume was small compared with calls about lotteries and sports betting.

While it can be a lucrative career for some, it can quickly become an issue for others. Are you becoming too attached to your day trading practices? Here are some signs you may have a day trading problem:

How to Find a Path Forward

Do you suspect you or a loved one has a day trading or gambling problem? If so, it’s time to seek help. Going it alone could only result in falling further and further into debt as you try to recuperate your losses. Professionals offering help for gambling problems, including day trading, can assist you in retraining your brain to look at gambling, your financial issues, and your mental health differently.

Everyone’s journey to recovery is different, but no one can do it alone. Join Gamblers Anonymous online meetings for the support you need to take back your life. Reach out to 800-GAMBLER for more information on overcoming your gambling problem.


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