Mental Health and Gambling

Portrait of relaxed young man with bluetooth headphones in forest

What causes problem gambling?

Problem gambling is an addiction that can affect your daily life, your health, your relationships and your finances.  You may have a gambling problem if:

  • You spend more than you can afford to lose, or
  • Lie to friends and family members about your gambling, or
  • Become irritable and anxious when trying to stop or cut back on your gambling

Various factors may increase your risk of developing a gambling problem.  Common factors include:

  • Having a family member with a gambling problem (especially a parent)
  • Being introduced to gambling as a child (with positive memories attached)
  • Feeling peer pressure to gamble
  • Having personality traits such as impulsivity, competitiveness, or being restless

How can gambling affect my mental health?

If gambling becomes problematic, it can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, low self esteem and even depression.  Just like other addictions, gambling can become problematic if you use it compulsively to the point of feeling out of control.  Gambling causes our brain to release dopamine - the “feel good” hormone.  When you are winning, your brain feels happy.  Once addicted, you will need more and more dopamine to keep your brain feeling happy – you may gamble more and more to get the same feelings.  The good news is that your brain can change making recovery from problem gambling possible.  This also means that you can experience positive mental health and wellbeing by setting a goal (recovery) and working to achieve that goal.  

Here are 5 tips you can try today to reduce stress and improve your mood and mental health:

  • Power in positive thinking – the way we think, feel and behave are linked.  Recognizing negative or unhelpful thoughts and seeking new ways to think about things can reduce stress and improve our mental health.  Use the power of positive thinking!
  • Connect with others – spending quality time with our family, friends (and pets) is good for the soul.  Sharing our feelings, listening to others, or helping others can help to reduce stress and isolation and improve our mood.  You can plan to meet others online, connect with others in person or by simply calling someone on the telephone. Walking the dog or snuggling with a pet is another wonderful way to reduce stress. Let’s connect!
  • Let’s get physical! - Physical and mental health are interconnected.  Go out for a walk, do stretches from your chair, dance to a favorite tune or choose other activities that fit your lifestyle.  Movement can instantly help to reduce stress and improve your mood.  Let’s get physical!
  • Mindfulness: being present - sit outside and soak in the fresh air and sunlight. Taking the time to be mindful (being aware of ourselves in the present moment) allows us to notice our feelings, our thoughts and the world around us (sounds, sights, and smells).  Mindfulness is helpful to reduce stress and anxiety and can be done anywhere at any time.  Be mindful!
  • Get enough sleep – getting enough good-quality sleep is important as it can improve our mood and how we feel mentally and physically.  A good rule of thumb is to go to bed at the same time each night, keep the room cool and dark, and aim for at least 8 hours sleep.  Get enough sleep!

Incorporating positive tips such as these into your daily life on a regular basis creates habits that can have a big impact on your mental health by helping to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mood over time.  Give these 5 tips a try.

  1. Use the power of positive thinking
  2. Connect with others
  3. Let's get physical
  4. Be mindful
  5. Get enough sleep