Gambling can affect many areas of your life.
Spending more than you want on gambling?
Struggling to find the money for bills?
Taking out loans to cover gambling debts?
A financial crisis is often what brings a person to address their gambling. It’s also not uncommon for partners, friends or family members to tell us that they did not realise their loved one had a gambling problem until there were serious financial consequences such as a court summons for non-payment of debt, or repossession action on their home.
Financial problems can really mount up, and more quickly than you realise. Bills don’t get paid, credit cards are maxed out, debts accumulate – pay day loans look like a solution, but high interest rates make the situation worse. Borrowing or stealing from loved ones, businesses or employers also happens when people feel increasingly desperate.
It may feel as though there is no chance of repaying your debts unless you carry on gambling – we hear from many people who feel completely trapped by their financial situation. Continuing to gamble will only make debts bigger – clearing debts gradually will take a while, but in reality it’s the only way to manage the problem.
Many problem gamblers have not let anyone know about how much they owe, and it can be daunting to take the step and tell people you trust, but it’s essential if you are ever going to take control and improve the situation.
Think about contacting a specialist not for profit debt advice agency. You can find links to other agencies at
Links to other support agencies
If you’re gambling, unless you get it under control, you’ll find it difficult to get out of debt and stay out of debt in future. So it will also be important to take steps to address your gambling, as well as your debt.
According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, problem gamblers are more likely than others to suffer from low self-esteem, develop stress-related disorders, to become anxious, have poor sleep and appetite, to develop a substance misuse problem and to suffer from depression. In this section we explore some of the reasons for this, as well as giving you some advice if this concerns you.
Are you experiencing all or some or all of the following?
Extreme emotions or mood swings
Feeling that gambling is the only thing you enjoy, to the exclusion of other things
Using gambling as a way to deal with other problems or emotions in your life
Feeling depressed or anxious
Having suicidal thoughts
If you answered yes to any of these questions, gambling could be a problem. If you’re not sure how your gambling affecting you at this stage, our self assessment may help.
Although a lot of people gamble to escape feelings of depression or other mental health problems, gambling can actually make these conditions worse.
If you gamble a lot yourself, you may have found the ‘high’ of anticipating ‘the big win’ to be very mentally involving and extremely exciting, perhaps better than the feelings you experience taking part in any other activity. You may also have found the devastation of losing to be a massive low, leading to feelings of despair.
This is especially the case when large amounts of money are being staked, increasing the potential for a massive ‘high’, but also makes the ‘low’ feel worse when it comes. Feelings of loss and despair following a gambling spree can lead to greater desires to gamble straight away in order to try and get back on a ‘high’. However, by continuing to gamble, any negative feelings will only get worse.
The impact of these highs and lows on your mental health can be significant. Studies show that brain chemistry and cell structure can be changed by this type of exposure. The system of ‘rewards’ in the brain can be affected: where previously you might have found pleasure in other activities such as food or sex, you may now find that these don’t hold so much appeal.
The good news is that studies have shown that brain chemistry can be rebalanced, and everyday life can start to feel good again. Finding ways to change your relationship with gambling and getting the right support for yourself can begin this process.
It is important to speak to professionals if you are worried about the impact of gambling on your mental health. Your GP may be the first person you talk to, and they may refer you to specialist services if they feel this will help. If you are not registered with a GP, you can find one local to you at www.nhs.uk
If you are concerned about your gambling, GamCare has a range of help, advice and support services.
Problem gambling and suicide
Research has shown a link between gambling problems and thoughts of suicide – more than double the amount of people affected by gambling problems say that they have considered taking their own life compared to those who are not affected by gambling.
Often a downward spiral from gambling can continue unchecked for a long time. Feelings of isolation can grow and it can seem as though there is no way out.
If you have self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts or feelings, it is really important to seek professional help as soon as possible because in extreme circumstances, gambling can kill. Having said that, there is hope. Support usually helps reduce suicidal thoughts and treatment for gambling problems is very effective.
You can speak to your GP or find NHS support, or you may find the following links useful.
1. Don't think of gambling as a way to make money The venue is using gambling to make money. It's not designed to work the other way around. Over time you will give away more money than you receive! Think of gambling as an entertainment expense – just like buying a movie ticket.
2. Only gamble with money you can afford to lose Gamble within your weekly entertainment budget, not with your phone bill or rent budget.
3. Set a money limit in advance Decide how much you can afford to lose before you go to play. When it's gone – it's over! If you win, you've been lucky, but don't be disappointed if your luck doesn't continue.
4. Set a time limit in advance It's easy to lose track of time when you're gambling. Set a time limit or alarm, and when time's up – quit! Odds are that the more time you spend gambling, the more money you will lose.
5. Never chase your losses If you lose your set money limit and then try to win some of it back before you leave, then you haven't really set a money limit. Chasing your losses will usually just lead to bigger and bigger losses.
6. Don't gamble when you're depressed or upset Decision-making can be more difficult when you're stressed or emotionally upset. Make sure you only gamble when you're feeling happy and clear headed.
7. Balance gambling with other activities When gambling becomes your only form of entertainment, it's unlikely that you're still just gambling for the fun of it, and your gambling may even be a problem. Make sure gambling isn't your only pastime.
8. Don't take your bank card with you This is a good way to safeguard your money limit and not let being "in the moment" warp your judgment.
9. Take frequent breaks Gambling continuously can cause you to lose track of time and perspective. Step out for some air or a bite to eat at regular intervals.
10. Don't drink or use drugs when gambling Drugs and alcohol cloud judgment, and good judgment stands as your main line of defence against letting gambling get out of control.