Gambling is not a problem for many people, but it can damage your mental health if it becomes an addiction.

Gambling is a popular activity for people looking for excitement. It also gives people an outlet to escape from everyday stress. Risk-taking can give us a short-term buzz, but it can easily become a compulsive action.

The rise of online gambling has made it more accessible, with people betting on video poker, roulette and high-risk stocks among those most at risk. If you already suffer from depression, anxiety or bipolar disorder, you are also more likely to experience problem gambling.

Many of us will be able to gamble occasionally without serious consequences. However, gambling may become a problem if you spend more money and time on it than you can afford.

The results of your gambling can also affect your behaviour. When you win, you may feel extremely excited. In contrast, when you lose you may become depressed.

Compulsive gambling can affect the brain’s dopamine levels, having a serious effect on our mental health. As well as that, it can seriously damage our finances and relationships with others.

Problem gamblers are more likely to suffer from low self-esteem, heightened anxiety and depression. Keep an eye out for symptoms like:

  • Mood swings and extreme emotions
  • Losing any interest in anything other than gambling
  • Using gambling to distract you from other problems and emotions
  • Finding it difficult to sleep
  • Feeling depressed or anxious
  • Thinking about suicide

If you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it may be time to look for some support.

If you’re in a mental health crisis and need urgent help, call the Single Point of Access on (01472) 256256 and select option 3. They are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Alternatively, you can call NHS 111 free from a landline or mobile phone.

Admitting you have a problem with gambling is the first step. Try speaking to someone you can trust, such as a relative or close friend.

In the first instance, you should speak to your GP if you’re concerned about the effect gambling is having on your mental health. They will be able to signpost you to the most appropriate support. They may decide that talking therapies, such as Open Minds, may help you if you are feeling anxious or depressed. You can also self-refer to Open Minds online.

The National Gambling Helpline provides confidential information, advice and 24/7 support for anyone affected by gambling problems. You can call one of their advisers or use the live chat option on their website.

GamCare Self-Assessment: If you’re not sure how much gambling is affecting you, you can take a short self-assessment on the GamCare website.

GamCare Self-Help Workbook: You can work through this workbook at your own pace, considering how your relationship with gambling affects your day-to-day life.

GAMSTOP: GAMSTOP is a free service that lets you put controls in place to restrict your online gambling activities.

The Gordon Moody Association: Problem gamblers can find intensive support, advice and education here.

Money and Mental Health: Money and Mental Health is an independent charity, committed to breaking the link between financial difficulty and mental health problems.