Gambling addiction or problem gambling can be a destructive force in many people’s lives. But did you know gambling addiction, as well as many other kinds of addiction, often go hand-in-hand with other mental health and/or substance abuse issues?
Cause and Effect of Gambling Addiction
Developing an issue with gambling addiction may happen for many reasons. For some, it’s the thrill of feeling powerful or taking a risk. Those who may feel isolated are drawn by a sense of social engagement.
Whatever the reason, gambling addiction is often associated with a myriad of negative consequences including:
• Poor Physical Health: In most cases, the addiction plays the most important role in one’s life, and essential self-care is often ignored. Many gambling addicts are affected by health issues relating to unhealthy weight.
• Poor Mental Health: Anxiety, depression, and impulsive behaviour are all linked to gambling addiction.
• Bankruptcy: As the addiction takes hold, those affected are often overcome by the idea they can win back the money they’ve lost, putting them in a vicious cycle wherein they find themselves totally depleted of funds.
• Criminal Behaviour: Many of those suffering from gambling addiction report that they have stolen from others to keep their addiction going. Severe problem gambling is often associated with larceny and embezzlement.
• Interpersonal Conflict, Divorce, and Isolation: Addiction is all-encompassing, often damaging our relationships with others.
Mental Health Issues and Addictions Associated With Problem Gambling
Problem or pathological gambling has been associated with serious mental illnesses. At times, a mental health issue may develop from gambling addiction. In other cases, the addiction to gambling may be the result of an untreated mental illness.
• Depression: For people feeling depression, gambling can often be used and abused as a way to escape or hide from negative feelings or situations. The sense of getting a “pick me up” or feeling like gambling is a way to unwind, enjoy life, or have a little fun is often related to their feelings of depression. In reality, over time the addiction often makes their depression worse. This risk of suicide for those with gambling addiction is higher than in non-gamblers.
• Anxiety: Some gamble as a way of managing anxiety. People with anxiety who gamble report feeling separated from their anxious feelings or being able to funnel their feelings of anxiety onto the thrill of their gambling activity. As a result, gambling begins to infiltrate their everyday life and slowly takes over.
• Alcohol and Nicotine Addiction: Often there can be a concurrent addiction to alcohol and nicotine for those suffering with gambling addiction. They are often intertwined and indistinguishable from one another. Often, those with a gambling problem have issues with separating the behaviours, therefore becoming addicted to all three. Some may have these addictions before gambling, and may be a larger sign of a mental illness.
There Is Help For You
With all this information in mind, it’s important to remember that the gambling addiction may not be an isolated issue. When seeking treatment for gambling addiction, also look for underlying or additional problems that may need to be addressed. Counselling, medication, support groups, exercise, and rehabilitation are all resources you can implement to treat any of these addiction and mental health issues. Each individual is different, so it’s important to identify what will work best for you.
Here is a list of resources for those who may be suffering from one or more of these issues:
National Problem Gambling Helpline (1-800-522-4700)
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