Addressing the impacts of gambling
Research has shown that harm to the gambler can account for 86.2 per cent of harms, while 13.8 per cent was harm to others. For every person who experiences severe gambling harm, up to six other people are negatively affected. Impaired family relationships, emotional problems and financial difficulties are among the most common effects on family members of people with gambling problems.
Harms have been divided into seven elements:
1) Financial harms
Financial harms include financial difficulties; for example, the gambler struggles to pay bills, rent, mortgage, or have enough money for daily needs. Many gamblers can experience reduced spending on recreational activities. The financial impacts of gambling can lead to gambler selling or pawning belongings in desperation to gamble and win back their losses or pay for essential items such as food.
As gambling escalates, the financial harms can become more extensive, resulting in significant impacts such as homelessness, loss of assets and an inability to pay essential bills. If you feel overwhelmed by money worries, speak to one of our team members who can support you and connect you to a free financial counsellor who can help assess, consolidate, and manage your debts.
In the meantime, it is essential to limit your access to money see Keeping Your Money Safe. If someone close to you is struggling with gambling issues. In that case, we encourage you to protect your finances – our team can support you and help you link a financial counsellor who can also provide you with valuable information to help keep your assets safe.
2) Relationship Issues
People suffering from gambling problems can experience turmoil with ups and downs associated with their gambling losses. This turmoil can impact those close to the gambler, such as experiencing financial hardship, mistrust, conflict, and a loss of open communication.
Recurring arguments about the same issues, such as money problems and gambling issues can be distressing. As gambling becomes an increasing problem, there can be a communication breakdown. The Significant others may begin to lose trust in the gambler or feel anger towards the gambler as they neglect responsibilities. At these challenging times, and those involved can experience a range of emotions such as sadness, anxiety, fear or uncertainty about their relationship and its future, anger, isolation, guilt, and shame.
If you think your gambling may impact your relationships, we can help you reconnect with your partner again. Having support to begin the conversation with your significant other is important. The ongoing stress and associated family conflict can sometimes result in domestic violence as emotions escalate. Domestic violence can include many forms of physical and emotional abuse, such as a single act of violence or several acts that lead to a pattern of abuse.
If you or someone close to you is experiencing domestic violence, we encourage you to seek help by calling the national sexual assault, family and domestic violence counselling service for anyone in Australia 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732)
3) Emotional and Psychological Distress
Emotional and Psychological harm are the most severe harms for both gamblers and those close to them.
It is common for a gambler to experience extreme distress and feelings of being a failure. This distress is often caused by the gambler experiencing a lack of control over their gambling and powerlessness due to their inability to stop gambling despite the ongoing harms its causes. The gambler may experience desperation in recouping or chasing past financial losses, leading to emotional highs and lows of winning and losing money. At this time, emotions such as regret, worthlessness, feeling of failure, frustration, anger and hopelessness are common.
When people are in this much distress and cannot see a way out, they may have suicidal thoughts about ending their pain. If you are experiencing these thoughts, you must call a 24-hour crisis number such as the Suicide Call Back Service1300 659 467 . The affected others also experience feelings of powerlessness, disappointment, resentment, and anger relating to their inability to control or influence the behaviour of the person who gambles. Contact our team for an appointment with one of our clinicians trained in helping people with these emotions to regain their self-worth while making positive steps towards recovery.
4) Decrements To Health
People who gamble to excess can have one or more associated health issues. Stress, depression and reduced sleep due to worry are common among problem gamblers and those close to them. There are links between excessive gambling and physical health because gambling becomes a top priority — despite the consequences in everyday life. For example, poor nutrition, insomnia, reduced exercise, increased smoking, and poor grooming habits are some of the impacts people experience when gambling becomes a priority.
Health professionals report that gambling at any level is a sedentary or inactive behaviour found to contribute to the prevalence of that risk factor in terms of chronic diseases such as heart disease. The physical harms associated with gambling problems have been related to financial hardship with missed allied health appointments (such as the dentist) or difficulties paying for prescription medications which can exacerbate existing medical conditions. Stress, depression, sleep deprivation created through 24-hour access to casinos that hide the passing of time and reduced sleep due to worry is common among gamblers who are gambling to excess.
Many people find that taking time to schedule activities into their days, such as a regular sleep routine and a daily walk, can boost their mood, give them something to look forward to and add a balance back into their life. Chat with one of our team who can get you started to schedule back some positive activities in your life.
5) Cultural Harm
Gambling can lead to a reduced connection to cultural communities and social isolation. People from different cultural backgrounds can experience conflicts between gambling and their cultural beliefs. This conflict can cause the gambler much anxiety and grief as they let go of their cultural values to gamble. It is important to reach out and reconnect to your culture as part of your recovery plan.
6) Reduced performance at work or study
When gambling becomes a priority in someone’s life, they begin to spend more time thinking about gambling or worrying about covering up their gambling. This lack of focus on work or study can result in absenteeism, reduced performance, tiredness, and using gambling as an ongoing distraction from the associated stress.
This lost productivity can lead to lost opportunities to advance and secure future employment and, in some cases, termination of employment. If you think gambling is becoming your main focus, we can help you regain the direction you need to ensure you are on the right track at work or study. Chat with one of our team to begin to focus on what is essential for you.
7) Criminal Activity
Crime and not paying back money have been associated with gambling problems. When distressed by the financial consequences of gambling and desperate to win back past losses, the gambler can resort to uncharacteristic behaviours such as stealing.
When gambling takes control, and the urge rises, as the gambler feels a desperation to gamble, they can begin to justify using the money for gambling needed for other purposes or that does not belong to them. This desperation to gamble and chase losses can lead to the gambler engaging in criminal activity to relieve a desperate financial situation. Other crimes can include petty theft from family members, illicit lending, and fraudulent efforts to attain funds.
If you notice gambling is taking control over your life and you are engaging in activities that go against your values and beliefs, give us a call. We can help you get control of your gambling and stop this vicious cycle of chasing money against your better judgement.
The impacts of gambling harms can also occur later in life and be transferred between generations. For example, parental poverty could impact on children throughout their lifespan. Please speak to one of our team who can help you and link you in with professionals to help manage these difficult issues.
Browne, M, Langham, E, Rawat, V, Greer, N, Li, E, Rose, J, Rockloff, M, Donaldson, P, Thorne, H, Goodwin, B, Bryden, G & Best, T 2016, Assessing gambling-related harm in Victoria: a public health perspective, Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation, Melbourne.