Gambling and Mental Health

Gambling is an activity where people place a bet or wager with something of value, such as money, goods or services. It is often referred to as a game of chance or a risky activity and it can be done legally in many countries around the world. Several types of gambling are common: card games, electronic gaming machines such as video-draw poker or slot machines, fruit machines, two-up and casino games; betting on events such as horse racing, football accumulators and elections; lottery tickets; and sports betting (see also betting).

There is a strong link between mental health problems and harmful gambling, so people with mood disorders like depression and anxiety may be more at risk. In addition, compulsive gambling can exacerbate existing mental health issues and make it difficult to stop.

People gamble for a variety of reasons: the adrenaline rush from winning, socialising with friends or as an escape from worries or stress. However, for some it can become out of control. If you find yourself feeling an urge to gamble, chasing losses, borrowing money or lying about your gambling habits, you may have a problem.

Some people with gambling disorder can recover on their own, but others need help. Counselling can help by teaching coping skills and exploring the underlying causes of gambling problems. In some cases, medication may be useful in managing co-occurring mood disorders or to help with withdrawal from gambling. There are also peer support groups available, such as Gamlers Anonymous, a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous.