The Negative Impacts of Gambling
Around half of men and women in the UK admit to gambling every month. That’s right — half. At first it sounds like a frighteningly large number but when you consider how gambling hasn’t just crept into our lives but barged its way in at every available opportunity it shouldn’t really be a surprise.
We used to consider gambling as a dubious vice for the working class man; playing the pools or frequenting smoky betting shops with blacked out windows, a place of mystery to those who’d never frequented them. Yet with the constant advances in technology and the rise of the Internet over the past twenty years, paired with the astute and attractive ways gambling is marketed today it appears to have become an acceptable lifestyle choice — a glamorous and luxurious one at that. Via television or online, it has become such an accepted part of our daily lives it almost feels like one of the family.
Television advertising is doing a great job. It’s not only dangling that £10 to a £10M carrot under our nose when it reaches out to us during every ad break of the football, the boxing, the golf and more, but it’s also done a fabulous job of balancing the glamour of gambling between the sexes. We have online (and offline) bingo, lotteries and scratch cards where the colour themed websites and apps are aimed straight towards the women who aren’t as sports focused as their partners, as fun and sexy party environments — have a cocktail, hit the dance floor, and win some cash while you’re here. It’s social, glitzy and polished. All from the comfort of an app or two on a mobile phone or tablet. It’s easier than ever to spend with the tap of a button and this form of spending can far too easily get out of hand and pave the way to misfortune.
The trouble with gambling…
The big problem for the gambler is that there are never as many winners are there are losers yet that’s not how the industry is promoted. Why would it be? That’s not going to fund the £13.9bn yearly yield, a figure supplied by the UK Gambling Commission.
The rewards are promoted so emphatically, and they really can be life-changing opportunities; outstanding wealth, luxury lifestyles, an end to financial worries, yet if we’re not sensible or careful enough, extra financial worries are all it’s likely to bring.
A gambling addiction can be fed by a mass of easily available sources; slot machines, casinos, lotteries, scratch cards, the race track, the bookmakers or even privately between your friends, and now even easier than ever, from your phone. A quick win and the rush from the dopamine injection we receive make it very difficult for many to resist. When we’ve won once or twice, no matter how many times we’ve lost, we’ve already programmed our brains to enjoy the thrill in the risk of reward and to hell with the consequences.
An addiction to anything is the act of being out of control. And with gambling it’s likely that the addiction will result in financial problems and debt.
It’s a cruel cycle for the addict, as they often see the only way out of the financial struggle is to win that last big pay out. If you think you can only solve your debt problems by gambling, you’re already addicted.
A differing type of gambling addiction is brought about through the highs achieved through taking huge risks that will impact their lives. The thrill of teetering on the edge of losing what they can’t afford to gamble is what drives some on. For others it can be through the elitism of believing that they’re the best at what they play. Online poker has brought competitive gambling to the masses with huge prizes and pay-outs as well as a heavily promoted luxury existence for the top in the game.
The one thing it pays to remember is — the house never loses. It is an industry paid for by its player’s losses, not their wins.
Impacts on our daily life
Financial disarray and debt
A compulsive gambling habit is an expensive pastime and the money has to come from somewhere. It can come from many places; cutbacks in other areas of spending, skipping bills, maxing out credit cards, personal or payday loans, borrowing from friends, and without a sensible means to repay the spending it’s a sure-fire path into real debt problems.
Given gambling’s reward/loss spectrum, there are very different outcomes of highs and lows over the emotional spectrum, and the price to our mental health when getting deeper into debt can be severe.
Problem gambling is linked to low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, insomnia and more. In severe cases financial stress has lead to suicide. Is it worth risking your health, perhaps even your life for?
Not just between couples but also with friends, business partners and family members, the effects on our general mood and personalities that come with gambling affect how we behave and integrate, or not, with those around us. The symptoms of the poor mental health gambling is often responsible for can affect how we perform at work through excessive anxiety or poor concentration. Is it really worth losing your partner, your friends, or even your job for?
How do we know when it’s out of hand?
There are some fairly straightforward pointers to when the fun of a flutter has turned into something more serious.
If you can’t afford to gamble yet you continue to find ways of funding your habit, then it’s a problem.
If you’re lying or hiding the truth about how much money and how much time you’re spending by gambling, then it’s a problem.
If you’re struggling to control yourself from gambling yourself into bigger financial, mental or emotional trouble, then it’s a problem.
If your family or friends have noticed and expressed concerns about your gambling behaviour or your financial troubles, then it’s a problem.
There are so many tell-tale signs; if you withdraw from socialising, your bills are mounting and your credit cards are maxed out, if you’re constantly anxious, secretive or agitated, if your basic standard of living has taken a nose-dive, if you’re missing payments on your mortgage or rent, and especially if you’re trying to repay debts by gambling even more, then it really is time to take positive action.
Reversing the problem
If you feel like you’re really in trouble and you can’t stop by yourself then it’s time to get help. An addiction is severe issue that takes a great deal of will power, discipline, help, guidance and support to overcome. There is plenty of help available for those who want it and from a range of professionals who will help find a treatment plan for your unique personal case.
In the same way, dealing with the debt that problem gambling brings needs addressing and talking to a professional about each of the options available and which is most suited to your level and type of debt is an ideal first step.
In both instances positive outcomes are available. What might start out as a bit of fun doesn’t have to lead to lifetime of trouble. And just like the adverts tell us — when the fun stops, stop.