Stress Awareness Month in April reminds us to pay attention to our health. Experts have shown that stress can have a dramatic impact on us mentally and physically. A variety of factors can relate to stress, and we’re familiar with many of them – our jobs, our relationships, our finances. One that might not come to mind immediately is the negative impact of gambling. Problems related to gambling have a close link to stress and anxiety, both for the people gambling and their loved ones.
Over 600,000 New Yorkers have experienced a gambling problem in the past year. The effects can include sleep issues, strain on relationships with loved ones, financial problems and increased alcohol or drug use, all of which can cause stress. People who struggle with problem gambling are also at a higher risk for other mental health problems. Two out of three individuals reported that their mental health suffered because of their gambling.
Not only do people start to be stressed after they have had problems because of gambling, but stress also itself can often lead to gambling. Some people experience distress over life events and circumstances and use gambling to distract or escape from the things that are bothering them. Unfortunately, though, the negative impact of gambling can compound an already-stressful situation and result in an unhealthy cycle.
Emotional and psychological distress is not exclusive to just the person gambling either – each of those individuals can affect up to 10 other people in their lives. A study found that nine out of 10 people impacted by someone else’s gambling problems felt emotional distress. Between the people gambling and their close friends and family, nearly six million New Yorkers are affected by problem gambling and may experience mental health issues because of it.
Gambling is rarely a positive or effective method for coping with stress. April is a great month to explore healthy alternatives to cope with stressors, big or small. If you notice yourself or someone you care about starting to gamble or increase the amount of time or money spent on gambling activities, it might be time to explore why.
The Western Problem Gambling Resource Center is available for anyone exhibiting warning signs of a gambling problem, such as being absent from activities with friends or loved ones because of gambling; feeling stressed or anxious when not gambling; low work performance due to absence or preoccupation with gambling; or lying to family and friends about how much money and time is spent on gambling. When people call (716) 833-4274 or email WesternPGRC@nyproblemgambling.org, they confidentially speak with a knowledgeable PGRC staff person who will listen to and connect them with the resources that best meet their needs. Whether someone is ready to get help or wants to know how they can help a loved one, call us today.