Gambling can be a fun and exciting form of entertainment. However, for some individuals, it can become a dangerous and destructive behavior. Problem gambling, also known as gambling addiction, is a serious issue that can profoundly impact an individual’s mental health. According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, approximately 2% to 3% of the adult population in the United States has a gambling problem.
What is Problem Gambling?
Problem gambling is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite the negative consequences it may bring. According to the American Psychiatric Association, symptoms of problem gambling include:
- The need to gamble with increasing amounts to achieve the desired excitement
- Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling
- Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling or planning future gambling)
- Often gambling when feeling distressed
- After losing money while gambling, often returning to get even (this is referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
- Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling
What are the Mental Health Effects of Problem Gambling?
Gambling can be a stress-inducing activity, and for individuals with problem gambling behavior, the stress can quickly become overwhelming. The pressure to win, fear of losing money, and the constant cycle of highs and lows can take a toll on an individual’s mental health. Unchecked, problem gambling can lead to depression, anxiety, and other serious mental health issues. In severe cases, problem gambling can lead to suicide.
If you or someone you love are having thoughts of suicide, call the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Free, confidential support is available 24/7.
Protecting Your Mental Health while Gambling
If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, it’s important to seek help as soon as possible. Treatment options such as counseling and support groups can be helpful in managing the urge to gamble and preventing relapse.
For individuals who enjoy gambling and do not have an addiction, it is still important to be mindful of the mental health effects associated with gambling. Here are some tips to help with responsible gambling:
Set Limits and Stick to Them
Before starting a gambling session, set a spending and time limit you will not exceed. When these limits are reached, walk away. Elicit the help of family or friends to help hold you accountable and stay within your limits.
Take Frequent Breaks
Gambling can be an intense experience. Taking breaks, even for just a few minutes at a time, can help you reset and re-evaluate your mental and financial status.
Alcohol and other substances can impair judgment and increase the chances of making impulsive decisions while gambling. To avoid this, stay sober while participating in any type of gambling activity.
Practice Stress-management Techniques
Stress is an inevitable part of gambling, but it doesn’t have to be a destructive force. Practicing stress-management techniques such as deep breathing and mindfulness can help you stay grounded in the moment and make better decisions. If gambling becomes stressful, take a break and come back when you’re feeling more composed. After all, you should only gamble if you find it to be an enjoyable activity.
Find Alternative Activities
Gambling is only one form of entertainment. If you’re visiting or live in an area where gambling is popular and readily available, make sure to find other outlets for recreation. Taking up a hobby such as painting or gardening, watching movies, or even going on walks can provide the relaxation and enjoyment you need without the risks associated with gambling.
Seek Help for Problem Gambling and Mental Health Support
At Mile High Psychiatry, we understand the complexities of problem gambling and mental health issues. If you or someone you know is struggling with problem gambling, please reach out for help. We are here to provide a safe, understanding space where individuals can get the support they need to move toward recovery.
We also provide mental health assessments, counseling, therapy and medication management for individuals struggling with depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health issues. Contact us today to learn more about our services or schedule an appointment.