Gambling and Mental Health
Although we may not notice it, there is always a self inside us that wants to play. That is, it wants to engage in fun and useless activities, motivated only by the pleasure of doing them. In adult life, play continues to have the same benefits as in children. That is, it helps us socialize, learn and cope better with reality.
A good portion of young adults between the ages of 25 and 35 choose video games as their choice for entertainment. In fact, this is the segment of the population that most frequently turns to this type of entertainment, ahead of teenagers. There is nothing wrong with this, but it is limiting since these are usually experiences that are usually lived alone. Rather than amuse us, they entertain us. They help us “pass the time”.
Watching soccer games or quiz shows on television helps them satisfy their need for play for other adults. Unfortunately, others sometimes turn gambling into an obsession and enter the realm of pathological gambling. This is a distortion, or perversion, of the act of gambling. An even greater dose of suffering opposes the satisfaction that can derive from it.
A disease is spreading like wildfire throughout the world and concerns pathological gambling known as ludomania.
The pathological gambler is driven in his behaviour by addiction to gambling, which creates a vicious circle from which he can no longer get out, bringing him devastating consequences on the economic side and on the personal and interpersonal social relationships.
When gambling becomes an illness
Ludopathy – as recognized by the World Health Organization – is a real mental illness, with specific symptoms, with uncontrollable impulses to gamble or make money bets.
Although the behaviour of the person who gambles excessively can affect the lives of many people, the person who gambles excessively is the first to suffer. Their gambling problem is likely to cause the following negative effects:
- Mental health impacts
- Impacts on physical health
- Substance abuse
- Social problems
- Financial difficulties
- Legal implications
- Impacts on school and work life
Not all pathological gamblers are the same, nor are the problems they face the same. People with gambling problems come from different age groups, income groups, cultures and types of jobs.
Non-gambler: Some people never participate in gambling.
Casual gambler: Most people occasionally gamble, buy lottery or raffle tickets, or visit a casino for entertainment.
Serious gambler: Some people like to gamble often. Gambling is their main form of entertainment but does not take priority over family and work.
Pre-pathological gamblers: These people have difficulty with personal, work and social relationships.
Pathological gamblers: People with such severe gambling problems are unable to control the urge to gamble, despite the harm.
Warning signs for problem gambling
- Need to gamble more to win back lost money
- Neglecting responsibilities at work or home
- Needing to lie to others to cover up gambling
- Neglecting friends and family to gamble
- Borrowing money, selling goods or even stealing to get money for gambling
Helping a friend or relative with a gambling problem
If the problem is serious and you’re worried that the other person won’t be very happy about dealing with it, talk to a professional (such as your family doctor or a counsellor) for more advice.
- Let your loved one know that you care about him or her and that you are concerned about his or her gambling behaviour.
- Tell your loved one how gambling affects you and/or others
- Be prepared to deal with the other person’s denial or anger.
- If necessary, consider taking steps to protect the family’s financial assets from uncontrolled gambling for the safety of the family and the person with gambling problems.
Gambling treatment is offered in a variety of settings, such as:
- Counselling/therapy in a community mental health clinic.
- By professionals who specialize in addictions such as gambling.
- Residential programs (inpatient and outpatient), which are programs where you will temporarily live and stay in the program.