Mental Health and Gambling


Gambling is when someone risks money or something of value in a game involving chance. It can be done legally in casinos and bookmakers, in state-licensed lotteries, online, or with friends. It can be a hobby, or it can become an addiction. The word “gambling” also describes the activity of betting on sports events, and some video games have gambling elements. It is important to understand how gambling can affect mental health, as it is a common trigger for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety.

The first step in dealing with a gambling problem is to seek treatment from a doctor or therapist, who can help you address the underlying issues. Typical treatments include cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which looks at how people think about betting, such as believing they are more likely to win than they really are or that certain rituals can bring luck. It can also look at the emotions you feel around betting, and ways to distract yourself from it.

In addition to CBT, family, marriage, career and credit counseling can be helpful for those with gambling problems. This will help you work through the specific issues that have caused your gambling and lay the foundation for repairing relationships and finances. There are also support groups available, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which follows a 12-step program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous. There are also online communities for those struggling with gambling addiction, and it is possible to meet up with others who don’t gamble.

Some people are more prone to developing gambling problems than others, and the risk increases with age. It is also more common among those with other mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, and there is a high correlation between gambling and thoughts of suicide. The risk is also higher for those with low incomes, who have more to lose and may be less able to cope financially.

There are four main reasons why people gamble, which might help you to understand why your loved one might be addicted to it. It might be for social reasons, for financial rewards, because they enjoy thinking about what they would do with the money if they won, or as a way to relieve boredom or loneliness. They might even be trying to avoid a financial crisis, which could result in them spending more than they can afford to repay.

Regardless of the reason, it’s important to understand why your loved one is gambling so you can support them through this difficult time. There are healthier and safer ways to deal with unpleasant feelings, like exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. There are also charities that can help with debt, such as StepChange. Talking to a trained debt adviser can also be a good idea. You might also find it helpful to speak to a GP or a counsellor, and seek advice from a specialist in gambling addiction.