Mental Health and Gambling


Gambling involves risking something of value on an event with the intention of winning something else of value. It can involve card games, slot machines and fruit machines, horse and greyhound racing, football accumulators, bingo and lottery-type games such as instant scratch cards. It can also include speculating on business, finance or insurance. There is also a growing number of online gambling services.

People gamble for many reasons, including the thrill of winning, socialising with friends and family or escaping worries or stress. However, for some people it becomes a serious problem and can impact on their mental health. Symptoms of a problem can include lying to or downplaying gambling behaviour, borrowing money to gamble and chasing lost funds. It can also have a negative impact on relationships, work and education.

It is possible to get help with gambling issues, and there are a range of support groups and treatment options available. There is also a link between gambling and mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety. Speak to a GP or mental health professional if you are worried about yourself or someone you know.

Gambling is a complex issue, and it can be difficult to recognise when there is a problem. It is important to talk about your feelings with someone who will not judge you, such as a GP, a counsellor or a trusted friend. It can also be helpful to join a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step programme similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.

Research suggests that there are several key factors that contribute to the development of gambling disorders. These include personality traits, coexisting mental health conditions, and a history of abuse or trauma. There is also a link between gambling disorders and suicidal thoughts. If you are having thoughts of suicide, call 999 or go to A&E immediately.

If you are struggling with gambling, try to set a time limit for yourself and stick to it, whether you are winning or losing. Never bet more than you can afford to lose and make it a rule not to borrow to gamble. Try to balance gambling with other activities, and don’t gamble when you are depressed or upset. And, most importantly, do not drink too much – it can lead to reckless betting and you’re more likely to lose control of your finances.

If you find that you are unable to stop gambling, try distracting yourself with other activities and avoiding the places where you used to gamble, such as a casino or TAB. It’s also important to avoid making excuses, like “I just need a break,” or blaming other factors, such as a stressful event or a financial crisis. If you have debt, speak to StepChange for free and confidential debt advice. They can also offer debt management plans that could help you manage your payments and reduce your interest rates.