Problem Gambling and Suicide Ideation Posted On

Did you know that nearly 50% of people struggling with gambling disorder have thoughts of suicide?  Therefore, someone who knows two people struggling with “repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress” (APA) likely knows at least one who may have thoughts about suicide.  Problem gambling affects millions of Americans, and we’re looking to raise awareness during Problem Gambling Awareness Month.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month

During the month of March, we’re hoping everyone will spend at least 5 minutes having a conversation about the negative consequences of problem gambling.  This week we’re focusing on problem gambling and suicide prevention. Suicide is a major focus for Problem Gambling Awareness Month with a goal of helping those struggling with problem gambling to get help and gain hope.

Problem Gambling, Mental Health, and Suicide

Problem gambling is typically accompanied by other difficulties.  Very often, a person struggling with problem gambling is also struggling with mental health disorders and suicidal ideation.  Of people struggling with gambling disorder:

  • 40% are also struggling with anxiety disorder.
  • 50% are also struggling with a mood disorder.
  • 60% are also struggling with a personality disorder.

Additionally, of those 60% of people struggling with gambling disorder and a comorbid mental health disorder, 17% have attempted suicide.  That accounts for nearly 1 in 5 people struggling.  People struggling with problem gambling are almost 2.5x more likely to attempt suicide then the general population.  These people need help, and help is available.

49% of people struggling with

gambling disorder have thoughts

of committing suicide.

(Moghaddam et al, 2015)

The Link between Problem Gambling and Suicide

Problem gambling is known as the hidden addiction.  It remains hidden because, unlike many substance use disorders, there are no smells or behavior changes specific to gambling.  Someone who has lost a lot of money due to gambling may seem angry or irritable, but those outward expressions can be attributed to many problems other than problem gambling.  Additionally, losing a lot of money is relative to someone’s financial standing (i.e. $1,000.00 may be a lot to one person as opposed to $20.00 being a lot to another).  A gambling problem may be held secret, leading the person struggling with problem gambling to feel increasing isolation and loneliness, and not seeing a way out of their increasing problems from gambling.   For many of those struggling with gambling, suicide may appear to be the only way out.

A person struggling with problem gambling who strives for recovery should be commended, but even people in recovery from problem gambling are susceptible to suicidal thoughts.  Recovery from problem gambling is different than recovery from substance use disorders in that those in recovery from problem gambling carry a huge financial debt that they need to pay.  This debt acts as a constant reminder of their gambling.  Many people in recovery from problem gambling continue to relive negative feelings like guilt, shame, and loneliness.  This, sometimes lifelong, debt in addition to all the other aspects of recovery, may lead the person struggling to thoughts of suicide.

There Is Help And Hope

Recovery from problem gambling is possible.  There is hope and there is help.  To speak to a trained clinician dedicated to helping people find the help they need for their problem gambling, call the NYS HOPEline.

Anyone looking for additional information can find plenty of resources on the KnowTheOdds.org resources page.  Learn all you can about problem gambling, its effects on the person struggling and the loved ones around them, and what you can do. 

For more resources and information about Problem Gambling Awareness Month, click HERE.

Please share this information with everyone you know to help those who may be struggling with gambling disorder.  Someone struggling with gambling disorder may or may not have thought about getting screened.  By sharing this information, you can help motivate them to get screened for gambling disorder and, perhaps, change their lives!