How Gambling Affects Your Mental Health

Gambling involves putting something of value at risk on an event that relies on chance, such as a football match, a scratchcard or a slot machine. You choose what to bet on and then the ‘odds’ are set, which determine how much money you could win if you are correct.

People gamble for many reasons – to experience the thrill of winning, to socialise or as an escape from worries or stress. For some people, however, gambling can become a serious problem. If you find that you are gambling more than you can afford to lose, borrowing money to gamble or constantly feeling stressed and anxious about gambling then you may have a gambling problem and should seek help.

While it’s true that gambling can lead to feelings of elation when you win, it is also true that it can lead to depression and despair when you lose. If you are suffering from these feelings, you should contact your GP or a local support service straight away for help and advice.

There are a number of ways that gambling can affect your mental health, including low moods, depression and even suicidal thoughts. It can be difficult to recognise these warning signs, but there is help available, and you should not suffer alone.

A key factor in the development of a gambling problem is the way that gambling impacts on relationships. For example, if you are always lying to your friends and family about how much you are betting or spending, this can damage their trust in you. Eventually they may start to avoid you and this can have a significant impact on their happiness.

Studies show that repeated exposure to gambling can change the way that your brain functions. Consequently, it can alter your sense of pleasure and make other activities, such as eating or sex, less enjoyable. However, it is possible to rebalance your brain chemistry and restore the pleasure that you get from other things in life.

It’s important to remember that although gambling does contribute a percentage of the GDP in countries around the world, it can also have negative effects on the lives of people and their loved ones. These effects can be seen at the personal, community and societal levels and can include both costs and benefits. The most well-known of these costs are the financial ones, but other costs can also include a reduction in quality of life, such as problems with relationships and work or school performance.

Gambling can also cause a range of social costs, such as feelings of shame or embarrassment if you lose. In addition, the effects can extend to a person’s immediate family, their friends and colleagues, and can have wider community impacts. These social costs are often hidden or ignored in economic models and are difficult to quantify, but can be included in a health-based approach to gambling. For instance, they can be measured using ‘disability weights’, which are used to calculate the impact of a health state on a person’s quality of life.

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