Gambling can be a fun and safe experience, if it is done moderately. Unfortunately, gambling can quite easily lead to several different issues, including addiction and mental health problems.
This article will explain the link between gambling addiction and mental health, so that people can understand the patterns of behaviour, the warning signs, and how the two issues are linked. It will also explain what the concept of problem gambling is, and how this plays a factor in people becoming addicted to gambling.
Moreover, it will also provide information regarding what people can do if they find themselves facing a gambling addiction, or if they wish to seek help on behalf of a friend or family member who might be suffering with an addiction.
There are different names that are used to identify and refer to gambling addiction (for instance compulsive gambling or problem gambling), but problem gambling perhaps best describes it. It implies that gambling itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but people can develop an unhealthy habit or obsession with gambling, and this is what can turn it into a problem.
Gambling can potentially affect people’s mental wellbeing, their relationships with friends and family, and also their financial situations. For instance, people can fall into debt with banks or loan sharks, or they might find themselves being unable to pay for basics such as food and rent.
What is the Cause of Problem Gambling?
There is no definitive answer to this question, nor is there when asking the same question in regards to people becoming addicted to drugs. Becoming addicted to gambling or anything else in life can be a result of many different factors.
For example, people might feel pressure from their friends who might happen to gamble regularly for fun. People could be exposed to the world of gambling from a young age, and since they are potentially more impressionable from a younger age, this could affect them in a profound way in later life, essentially laying the foundations for the addiction to become actualised.
People’s personalities could also play a role, as some people may simply have addictive personalities, finding themselves becoming addicted to many different things in life. Elsewhere people could simply be naturally competitive or impulsive, and are therefore constantly thrill-seeking in order to remain entertained.
In order to understand why a gambling addiction has occurred, the person with the addiction needs to ideally seek some form of counselling or therapy. This can help them to understand what the factors were that caused them to become addicted, as well as what they can do in order to address these issues and overcome their addiction.
How Can Gambling Affect Your Mental Health?
Once a gambling habit has turned into an obsession or addiction, it can begin to cause harm to a person’s mental health by causing them to feel depressed, anxious, stressed, or experiencing feelings of low self-esteem. The link between gambling and mental health issues therefore, is due to people experiencing negative consequences to their lives as a result of their gambling addiction.
People addicted to gambling might feel stressed and anxious if they are unable to win back the money they have lost. They might feel an increasing pressure to win back the money fast in order to get back on top of their financial situation.
People might begin to feel depressed if they continually lose, and they may begin to believe they are a ‘failure’, which in turn will lower their self-esteem. This inevitably will send them into a downward spiral.
Gambling addiction can become a vicious cycle, in which the person believes that the one thing that is causing all of their problems might actually be the one thing that can solve all of their problems.
Getting Help With A Gambling Addiction
If people are struggling with a gambling addiction, or if they are finding that their gambling activity is negatively affecting their mental health, there are many treatment options on hand that can help people to beat their addiction, and improve their mental health.
Some good initial things to do would be to remove oneself from any environments that promote gambling (e.g. casinos, betting shops, etc.), as well as removing gambling apps on phones, and blocking gambling websites on any home computers that the individual might have.
These steps towards self care might not be foolproof in terms of completely avoiding gambling and the temptation to engage in it, but they might serve as a positive first step in preventing oneself from falling into the cycle, and also giving oneself a chance to step away and potentially recover from the addiction.
Residential treatment programmes are one option, and this could potentially be an ideal solution for someone facing a gambling addiction. They can get away from environments that encourage gambling, and then be able to focus their attention and time on beating their addiction.
The NHS also runs programmes and specialist treatment clinics for people struggling with gambling addictions. In addition to inpatient treatment options, people may decide to opt for outpatient treatment options, as this may provide a better schedule for some people.
For instance, if some individuals have strict work and family commitments, they could potentially find an outpatient treatment program that enables them to attend a few sessions a week, whilst also being able to keep up with their life commitments.
As previously mentioned, the best forms of treatment that will help people overcome their gambling addictions are likely to be in the form of therapy and counselling sessions, as well as 12-step treatment programmes and 4-step programmes (such as the SMART recovery programme).
This form of treatment can provide people with the tools and resources they need to build confidence in themselves, and build coping mechanisms which will enable them to overcome their addiction and prevent relapse in the future.