How Gambling Affects Your Mental Health

Gambling Sep 15, 2023

Gambling is the act of placing a wager or stake on an event or game with the aim of winning money or other valuable prizes. It can take many forms, including casino games, sports betting and lottery games. It can be fun and exciting for some people, but for others it can become a serious addiction that causes financial and personal problems.

It’s important to understand how gambling works and how it can affect your mental health. Many people gamble for a variety of reasons, such as the adrenaline rush of winning, or to socialise with friends. For some, it’s a way to cope with feelings of boredom or depression. But it’s important to recognise that there are healthier and safer ways to relieve these feelings. You can try talking to a friend, joining a support group or trying self-help tips.

People who have a gambling disorder often experience intense urges to gamble, even when they are aware that it is causing them harm. They may lie to their family members, therapists or employers about their gambling and hide evidence of it. They may even steal to fund their habit.

In the past, people have compared gambling to alcohol and drug abuse, but research is now showing that it’s more like a neurological condition. In fact, the latest edition of the DSM (a mental health diagnostic manual) moved gambling disorders from the section on substance abuse to a new category focused on behavioral addictions.

Many people use gambling to manage their emotions, such as anger, sadness and anxiety. But it’s also important to know how to recognise the signs of harmful gambling, such as:

Gambling products are designed to keep you gambling, so your chances of winning are low – it’s not like buying a bottle of Coca-Cola and hoping that ‘lady luck’ is on your side. The reality is that you’re more likely to lose than win – and the more you lose, the more you want to win back your losses.

There are also a number of other risk factors to look out for, such as:

Taking up a hobby, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, exercising or practicing relaxation techniques can all help to reduce your stress levels and improve your mood. You can also speak to a debt advisor for free, confidential advice.

There are a number of barriers to conducting longitudinal studies on gambling, such as the massive funding required for a multiyear commitment; difficulties in retaining researchers and participants over a long period of time; and sample attrition. Nevertheless, such studies are becoming more commonplace and sophisticated. They can provide invaluable information about the underlying mechanisms that lead to problematic gambling behavior. Having this information will lead to better, more effective treatments for pathological gambling.