Often when problem gambling makes headlines, the focus is on the financial toll and the devastation experienced by spouses, children, and other loved ones. Although these are very impactful consequences of someone’s gambling problem, it can unfairly vilify the person without providing insight into their own struggle.
Problem gambling is the result of gambling causing problems in someone’s life, which may include poor mental health, conflicts with friends and family, financial trouble, and the like. For many, their problems can be the result of gambling disorder, a diagnosable behavioral disorder. As we have learned with issues related to alcohol or drug use, this behavior cannot be boiled down to a moral failing or lack of discipline.
Mental health issues could be the cause or effect of a gambling problem. Some people may have started gambling for fun but now experience a compulsion or need to keep gambling. Others may use gambling to escape worry, stress, or trauma in their lives. Either situation can lead to painful depression, anxiety, shame, thoughts of suicide, all of which can decrease the ability to make positive, rational decisions.
Certainly, there may be consequences for which a person with a gambling problem must take responsibility. However, to ensure that he or she can make amends for wrongdoing and avoid future problems, we must promote the individual’s and family’s health and wellness through support, treatment and recovery for problem gambling and gambling disorder.
The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center (PGRC) is here to support anyone being negatively impacted by problem gambling. If you’re dealing with problems related to your own gambling or someone else’s, call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org to speak with a caring and knowledgeable PGRC staff who will connect you to the resources that will best meet your needs. Recovery and healing are possible.