Gambling and Mental Health

Gambling is an activity in which you risk something of value – money, possessions, time – on an event with a uncertain outcome in hopes of winning a prize. It can be done in many ways, from betting with friends on sporting events to buying lottery tickets. It is usually a form of entertainment, but can lead to serious mental health issues in some people.

A small number of individuals are at high risk of developing a gambling disorder, which is a recognised and treatable condition. People with a gambling disorder are at increased risk of alcohol and drug abuse, suicide, relationship problems, and poor work performance. They may also experience depression and/or anxiety.

Problem gambling is more common in certain groups of people, including young people, men, and those who have a family history of gambling problems. It is also more common amongst those with depression or other mental health disorders, and those who are unemployed. It is important for people to understand the risks of gambling and how to seek help if they have any concerns.

The Journal of Gambling Studies is an interdisciplinary forum for research and discussion of the many and varied aspects of gambling behavior, both controlled and pathological. Its coverage extends from the mechanics of various games and venues, to the psychological, social, economic and legal implications. The journal’s readers come from a wide range of disciplines, including psychiatry, psychology, sociology, political science, criminology and social work.

If you have a friend or relative who has a problem with gambling, it can be difficult to know how to help them. You might find that they secretly gamble in secret or lie about how much they are spending, believing that other people won’t understand. They may even try to ‘win back’ money that they have lost by upping their bets.

Managing finances and credit – If you have a loved one who is addicted to gambling, it is important to set boundaries and not allow them to spend more than they can afford to lose. You might consider limiting access to their bank accounts or even taking over the management of their funds.

Other resources – See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ for more information. Try to reduce the temptation by removing your credit card from your wallet and not using it when you are out. Find new things to do that are more rewarding than gambling.

There are a variety of treatment and support services available for people with gambling problems. These include individual counselling and group therapy, family therapy, marriage and relationship counselling, and financial or credit counseling. These programs are often available in community health centres, hospitals and private clinics. Some problem gamblers are admitted to specialised addiction treatment programs where they can be monitored round-the-clock. These are usually residential or inpatient facilities and are designed for those with severe gambling problems who cannot manage their gambling without professional intervention.