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Understanding the risks of gambling

Trying to understand your gambling behaviour and the risks involved? We’ve put together some useful information to help you understand the impact gambling can have on your life and the warning signs to look out for.

Be aware of the risks

Often when thinking of the harm people can experience from gambling we focus on the financial losses or relationship difficulties, but when gambling becomes out of control it can impact all areas of our lives, including mental and physical health. By keeping this in mind, you can be more aware of the effects of gambling and be more mindful of your gambling choices.

Money and finances

When gambling gets out of control, it can lead to issues like not being able to pay bills on time, or taking out loans or overdrafts to cover the amount you are spending. This can cause financial stress and worry. It’s important to remember that gambling operators are set up to make money, not the other way around, so chasing your losses will lead to bigger losses.

There are tools and organisations out there to help you take back control of your spending - you can find out more about the budgeting and spend control tools available here and the help available for gambling and financial worries here.

Mental health and emotional stress

Gambling can affect how you feel, no matter how much or how often you do it.  Very often, people who are struggling with their gambling feel like they have little or no control. This can lead to experiencing shame and lack of self-worth, but also guilt and remorse because of how their behaviour might be impacting others. If you’re struggling with your gambling you may also experience feelings of anxiety or depression, changes in your sleeping pattern, mood swings and in some cases suicidal thoughts.

If you feel that gambling is affecting your mental health, there is no shame in that, it’s important to seek help and support:

  • You can speak to your GP who will be able to refer you to specialist support should you need it.
  • The National Gambling Helpline is available 24/7 for free support and advice on 0808 8020 133 or via live chat.
  • You can call the Samaritans for someone to listen and chat through whatever you need to talk about for free, 24/7 on 116 123 or find out other ways to contact them here.

Gambling and suicide

Research has shown a strong link between gambling problems and thoughts of suicide. More than double the amount of people experiencing gambling harm say that they have considered taking their own life compared to those who are not affected by gambling.

Early detection and support are essential in getting help for problem gambling and preventing the thoughts of suicide or suicide. 

Combined with the stigma surrounding discussing finances, gambling harm can often go undetected, resulting in devastating consequences for the person gambling and their family.

If you have self-harmed or had suicidal thoughts, it is really important to seek professional help as soon as possible. You can speak to your GP or find NHS support, or you may find the following links useful.

Relationships, work and social life

If you’re having trouble keeping your gambling in control, you might find this can impact things like your relationships with loved ones, your performance at work and your social life. It’s important to understand that gambling become an addictive behaviour, which may lead you to behave in ways that seem ‘out of character’ or feel hard to explain. There are specialist organisations that offer confidential advice and support on a range of issues related to gambling. Whether you just need to talk, want emotional support, or advice about relationship difficulties and how to talk to a loved one about your gambling there’s help for you. You can find out about all the different support options available here.

Be aware of the signs

It can be really difficult to know if you’re struggling with gambling, as sometimes it’s hard to see the physical effects of gambling too much. Harm from gambling is more than financial losses, it can affect self-esteem, relationships, physical and mental health, work and social life. Below are some signs to look out for that mean you may be having some difficulties with your gambling and would benefit from help and support:

  • Spending more money on gambling than you can afford
  • Spending too much time on gambling
  • Hiding your gambling from those around you, or lying about it
  • Finding it hard to manage or stop gambling
  • Having arguments with family or friends about money and gambling
  • Losing interest in usual activities like spending time with friends or family
  • Always thinking or talking about gambling
  • Chasing losses or using gambling to get out of financial trouble
  • Gambling until all your money is gone
  • Borrowing money, selling possessions or avoid paying bills in order to pay for gambling
  • Gambling with larger amounts of money or for a longer amount of time
  • Neglecting work, school, family, personal needs or household responsibilities
  • Feeling anxious, worried, guilty, depressed or irritable.

If you’re experiencing any of these warning signs, no matter how big or small, you should get in touch with the National Gambling Helpline for confidential advice as leaving them un-checked could lead to these harms becoming more serious. You can talk to an adviser for free 24/7 on 0808 8020 133 or via live chat.