Effects of Problem Gambling on the Gambler
Problem Gambling can have a serious impact on the physical, emotional, and financial health of individuals who gamble, as well as their families.
Why Can't I Just Stop?
- How did this happen? I can't believe all the trouble I'm in.
- If I stop gambling now, I'll have to admit I'm a total loser. There's no way I can pay back all the money I owe.
- If I had the money to invest, I'm sure my luck would change. I just need one more win.
- Even if I had another win, I'd probably just lose it again.
- I can't face this mess alone, but I'm too embarrassed to ask for help.
- I should be able to solve my own problems. How could I be so stupid?
- I never thought it would get this bad.
Do these statements sound familiar? Most people with gambling problems say they lost control over how much time and money they spend gambling. Meanwhile, they ignored other responsibilities. They knew they had problems, but only gambling seemed important.
Many people who gamble excessively have mixed feelings about gambling. They know they are causing problems for the people they love. They may become anxious and unhappy, and often hate themselves. But the urge to gamble seems too great to resist. They feel they can't give up on all the time, money and emotion they have put into gambling. They can't accept that they will never win back what they have lost. Some people still believe their system will pay off, their luck will change or they are due to win. Others believe that continuing to gamble is the only way out of a situation they are ashamed about.
Other people promise to quit, but can't. They fear their loved ones will find them out. This drives them deeper into hiding and further into debt. They keep hoping a big win will end their problems. Once in a while they may win, which keeps their hope alive until the losses mount up again. If they quit now, they will feel like a loser. They will have to face all the problems gambling has caused.
If you are like most people who gamble excessively, you may have tried to cut down or stop many times. It is hard to change your gambling on your own. Counselling can help you find long-term solutions to your problems.
Anxiety and Depression
Many people who gamble excessively feel stressed, anxious and depressed. This can make sleeping, thinking and solving problems more difficult.
If you have some of the following symptoms for more than two weeks, making your day-to-day life difficult, you may have chronic depression:
- You have lost interest in usual activities
- You feel depressed, down in the dumps or irritable
- Your sleep has changed (e.g., you have problems falling asleep or staying asleep, or you sleep too much)
- Your appetite has changed
- You have lost or gained weight
- You feel helpless, hopeless or despairing
- It is hard to think and to remember things, and your thoughts seem slower
- You go over and over guilty feelings
- You cant stop thinking about problems
- You have lost interest in sex
- You feel physically tired, slow and heavy; or you feel restless and jumpy
- You feel angry
- You think about suicide
If you have any of these difficulties, speak to your family doctor or other health care professional (a gambling counsellor can also make sure you get the help you need). Tell him or her about your gambling problems too. Treatment may include medications and/or counselling and other support.
Rates of suicide are higher for people who gamble excessively, and for their family members. The people most likely to attempt suicide are those who also have mental health problems (like depression) or who heavily use alcohol or other drugs. People who have threatened suicide or hurt themselves in the past are also more at risk. If you feel suicidal or are making plans to end your life, get help right away. You don't have to deal with your problems alone. For more advice, see the box on this page.
What to do if you feel suicidal
If you are thinking about ending your life:
- Go to your local emergency department immediately, or if needed, dial 911.
- Remove any means for ending your life (e.g., firearms, medications)
- Let your family or a friend know how you are feeling
- Call your local distress centre for support and information
- Let your doctor know what is going on, including your gambling
- Do not drink alcohol or take other drugs—it will make matters worse
- Contact the Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline (1 888 230-3505) and arrange to see a counsellor as soon as possible. You can usually be seen within days
- Talk to someone you trust, such as a friend or spiritual advisor