Mental Health and Gambling

Whether it’s lottery tickets, scratch-offs, video poker, slot machines or other forms of gambling, many people enjoy the thrill of winning. However, too much gambling can affect your mental health and cause financial problems. In fact, there’s a link between gambling and suicide. If you’re thinking about taking your own life, call 999 or visit A&E immediately. Problem gambling can also damage your relationships, work performance or study and lead to serious debt or even homelessness. There’s a strong link between your mental health and how you gamble. If you have an underlying mood disorder, such as depression or anxiety, you’re more likely to develop a gambling problem. These disorders can also be made worse by compulsive gambling.

Gambling is the wagering of something of value on an event with an uncertain outcome, where instances of strategy are discounted. The outcome of a gambling event can be instantaneous, such as a spin of the roulette wheel or a roll of the dice, but it can also be longer-term, like betting on a football team to win a match or an entire sports season.

Although a few million adults have a gambling addiction, many more people experience mild to moderate gambling problems. Some of these problems are caused by a mental health issue, such as depression or anxiety, which can trigger or be made worse by gambling, while others may be financial in nature and lead to financial hardship.

If you’re a regular gambler, you can try to reduce your risk by setting yourself a spending limit and sticking to it. Only gamble with money that you can afford to lose, and make sure you don’t use any funds that need to be saved for bills or rent.

It’s also helpful to have a good support network in place, especially if you struggle with an addictive personality. Seek help from friends and family who can offer you a fresh perspective on your behaviour, and consider joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy can help you resist unwanted thoughts and habits. For example, CBT can help you challenge irrational beliefs about gambling, such as the idea that certain rituals will bring you luck or that a series of losses will be reversed by one big win.

It’s important to seek help if you think you have a gambling problem, and to address any underlying mood disorders that could be contributing to it. You should also seek help if you’re in serious debt or struggling to pay your bills. Contact StepChange for free, confidential debt advice. It’s also worth speaking to your GP, as they can refer you to specialist services. You can also get free debt advice from the Citizens Advice service.