With the advent of online casinos, gambling has become a more popular pastime than ever before. It’s estimated that a total of 1.6 billion people participate in gambling around the world. While gambling can be an incredibly fun way to blow off some steam and play with friends, it’s also obvious that gambling can have some extremely detrimental effects on your mental health, as well.
Anyone who’s ever won at a casino knows that the rush from winning is unlike anything else in the world. Likewise, anyone who’s ever lost at a casino (a much larger number of people) will know the sting of betting just a little too much than you probably should’ve. The risks of gambling to your mental health and wellbeing include increased risk of mental health illnesses such as anxiety and depression, addiction, and even suicidal tendencies. If you or someone you know is an avid gambler, here are five tips they need to know to ensure their mental health while gambling.
Gambling feels so good for a reason: The act of gambling (and particularly, winning) releases the neurotransmitter dopamine in the brain, a chemical responsible for feelings of euphoria and happiness. This makes gambling incredibly fun. So fun, in fact, that some people are unable to stop.
Gambling addictions are common. Research suggests that one percent of the entire global adult population has a serious gambling problem, and in the United States alone, over twenty million adults gamble so much it interferes with their professional and social lives. Addiction to gambling isn’t just bad for your mental health. Gambling addicts often lose their entire life savings — and then some. A gambling addiction can quickly result in spiraling debt, further increasing stress and anxiety and elevating the risk of mental health illnesses.
When beginning to gamble, always keep the risk of addiction in mind. A good rule of thumb is to set aside a certain amount of money when you enter a casino that you plan to spend that day. Once the money’s gone, you should go home. By limiting yourself before you start to gamble, you can better ensure that you’ll be able to control yourself as the night gets longer.
One of the biggest mistakes a person can make when they start gambling is assuming they’ll win. Going into a casino with the assumption that you’ll come out with more money than you win isn’t just statistically unlikely. With that type of mindset, you’re more likely to gamble more money than you intend to, as well as spiral into a mental health crisis when you don’t win a penny. Visiting a casino should always be about having some fun. Play to win or lose. Chances are you’ll walk away with less money than you started the day with, and that’s okay.
The danger of gambling is that it’s hard to ensure you’ll always be in control. It can be so easy to get lost in the hope that tomorrow your luck will be better. If you find yourself constantly anxious about gambling, or about not being able to stop yourself from gambling, you should immediately stop going. An anxiety test is a good way to measure your mental state before you go gambling. Ask a friend or loved one to make sure you don’t go to the casino until you’re able to regain your self-control. Your wallet and your social life will thank you for it.
Speaking of asking a friend, it’s always a good idea to visit the casino with a supportive and responsible friend in charge of making sure you don’t overspend or do anything you’ll regret. If you’re starting to feel like your mental health is deteriorating from gambling, don’t be afraid to open up to your support network. Your friends and family want what’s best for you. Don’t be scared of being judged or condemned for having a weakness for gambling. Odds are, your loved ones will understand and do everything in their power to support you going forwards.
Finally, if you visit the casino with a group of friends and find that one of your buddies is starting to lose control or deteriorate from gambling, you should do whatever you can to stop your friend from making a potentially life-altering decision. Gambling is no joke and even if your friend doesn’t see it at the moment, they’ll be eternally grateful to you for saving their livelihood down the line. Friends don’t let friends gamble their life savings away. Help your friend the way you’d want them to help you in that situation.
Hopefully, with these tips, you can gamble responsibly and keep the casino a place of fun rather than a financial black hole. By being mindful of your own limits and making sure you stay in control, you can prevent yourself and your loved ones from having to deal with a gambling addiction. Over time, you’ll be very grateful with yourself — and your loved ones will thank you, too.