Gambling Addiction: Up to 80% of compulsive gamblers contemplate suicide
Did you know people with a gambling addiction are more likely to have suicidal ideations and attempts than the general population?
This jarring fact comes from the incredibly debilitating effects of gambling on the mind and spirit.
The truth is, gambling addiction doesn’t just cause financial damage. It has the ability to wreak havoc on your mental health, your emotional stability, and even your physical well-being. It can destroy relationships and tear apart families.
The effects of gambling on mental health
Gambling can have a powerfully negative impact on your mental health. So much so, that gambling addiction has been likened to substance use disorder in the American Psychological Association's DSM-V, and is listed under behavioral addictions.
Because gambling is legal, it’s generally widely accepted. However, just because it’s accepted doesn’t mean it isn’t harmful.
As mentioned above, pathological gamblers are more likely to experience suicidal ideations and attempts than the general population. Research indicates that approximately two-thirds of Gamblers Anonymous members have contemplated suicide.
Furthermore, nearly 80% of all gamblers who have called a gambling helpline have reported experiencing suicidal thoughts. Additionally, a further 17% to 24% of people who struggle with a gambling addiction will attempt suicide. Not only this, but the rates of suicidal ideation are higher for their family members as well.
People who are more likely to attempt suicide are those who have co-occurring mental health disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Unfortunately, the nature of gambling addiction is so powerful that it can prompt these mental health disorders to manifest.
People who struggle with gambling experience significant stress and worry, accompanied by feelings of guilt and regret. Experiencing these emotions day in and day out impacts on the way you feel about yourself and the world around you.
Problem gambling can cause significantly low self-esteem and shame, causing you to withdraw from others. You may also engage in lying and sneaking around, prompting emotions of shame to perpetuate. Isolation then increases feelings of depression and anxiety, and because the gambling continues, the mental health concerns get worse as well.
The risks of gambling addiction
Gambling addiction is a disease that affects not only you but your partner, your children, your family.
How gambling affects you
When you become swallowed by a gambling addiction, it completely strips you of who you are. Much like with a drug or alcohol addiction, you lose a sense of connection with yourself.
Research indicates that those with gambling addictions have decreased ability to focus and poor impulse control. You lose focus on your goals, your joy, and the things that once mattered.
As your world becomes more and more immersed in the world of gambling, your mental, emotional, and spiritual health deteriorate, until you can't recognise yourself anymore. Biologically, you’re more likely to develop stress-related conditions such as ulcers, sleep deprivation, high blood pressure, and heart disease. You’re also more likely to have an abnormal response to acute stress, and increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol.
Emotionally and mentally, you’re at an increased risk of developing major depressive episodes and anxiety-related disorders. Mood disorders are incredibly prevalent in those who struggle with gambling addictions, with comorbidity rates as high as 75% for those struggling with depression.
You’re also more likely to develop substance use disorders. Nicotine dependence and alcohol dependence are shown to be much higher in those with gambling addictions than they are in the general population.
As you hide from debt collectors and avoid your mounting bills, your relationships with your partner and family members become even more strained. You may find yourself dealing with legal consequences, losing your job, and even losing your home.
The financial strain of gambling addiction can cause you to resort to desperate measures, whether that involves stealing, taking out large loans you’re unable to pay back, or worse yet, doing things that are out of character. You find yourself stuck in a dark, downward spiral that continues because of your gambling.
How gambling affects your family
Gambling addiction is a disease that has a direct impact on your family and children. The nature of gambling addiction innately causes you to become more secretive and withdrawn. You find yourself lying, causing tension and arguments with your partner or loved ones. If you have a gambling addiction, you've likely experienced significant financial strain. This causes an even greater disconnection between you and your family members.
Additionally, problem gambling can have a significant impact on your children. Similar to children of those who struggle with a substance use disorder, children of those who struggle with a gambling addiction may experience abandonment issues due to having a parent that is consumed by their addiction. These children may experience low self-esteem and a lack of self-worth as they get older. They are also at an increased likelihood of developing their own addictions.
How gambling affects your community
Not only does gambling have a significant impact on you and your family, but these impacts ripple into your community as well. The results of gambling impacts communities in multiple ways, from placing a hardship on public assistance programmes and prison systems, to dealing with the effects of forcing home sales, fraud, and forgery. Gambling can lead to increased rates of unemployment and bankruptcy, further impacting loved ones and the generations that follow.
What to do next if you’re struggling with gambling addiction
If you’re struggling with a gambling addiction, know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel!
It won’t be easy, but you’ll be able to restore your life by getting the proper help and support.
You may think winning back all of your money to erase all of your debt will solve your problems. In actuality, the first step towards healing is to get treatment for yourself. Pathological gambling only happens when there is a deeper, underlying problem that has to be worked through. Gambling addictions are very similar in this way to substance use disorders. In order to get the root of your compulsive gambling, you’ll need to get individual treatment for yourself. You can do this by going to inpatient or outpatient counselling. You can also attend meetings and self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous or GamCare.
Attending family counselling sessions can help you to gradually work towards restoring relationships with your loved ones and children. The impacts of active gambling addiction will have likely left significant emotional and mental turmoil within your family. This won’t fix itself once your gambling ends. Actively working through these issues with a counsellor or therapist is incredibly important. It allows you to restore connection, love, and trust for yourself and your family again.
Financial coaching can help you not only restore your finances, but also help you develop a healthy relationship with money. When you feel ready and stable, exploring financial coaching or counselling can be a great asset to have on your healing journey.
There are a great many sources of support for those in financial debt, including your local Citizens Advice bureau, debt consolidation companies and Debtors Anonymous ( a 12 Step programme to resolve debt)
You can also reach out to others who have overcome or are struggling with a gambling problem by joining our Recoverlution Community. Here, you will find a free and safe space to connect with like-minded others, attend meetings and create groups and message boards
Author - Thurga