AO Harm


The impact gambling difficulties have on mental health is profound. Good mental health helps you to meet the demands of everyday life. It helps you deal with life challenges. It is also important to having satisfying relationships, being able to work, and contribute to society. This means damage to mental health from gambling is bad not just for individuals. It is also bad for families, communities, and society.

Sometimes, diagnosable mental health problems, neurodiversity, or trauma made gambling especially dangerous for people. Many were experiencing life difficulties. But these are the kinds of changes and challenges that any of us face. This means anyone can become more vulnerable to gambling harm. Also, some people do not have any mental health or life challenges and still develop gambling difficulties because gambling is addictive.

However, everyone has said gambling difficulties damaged their mental health. This damage is more than any mental health problems they may have had before. For some people, their physical health also suffered.

There are many mental health harms such as mood swings, depression, stress, and anxiety. People experience shame, damage to their self-worth and self-punishment. They may withdraw from their family and friends, leaving them feeling isolated. They may be unable to concentrate. People could not control their own thoughts and actions. This was very stressful and distressing to them. Most people said they became suicidal. Gambling contributed to other harmful behaviours, such as drinking more alcohol. People have described gambling as causing trauma. They may have flashbacks and panic attacks. Their lives are changed forever.

During Gambling

People have said that that when they are gambling more often, they do not function like they usually do. They do not address life challenges as well, and instead any problems they have get worse. Sleep is often disturbed. People cannot concentrate. Their attention is taken away from work and relationships.

People have described having mood swings based on whether they are able to gamble. They may have irritability or tension if they are unable to gamble. Some have mood swings if they have won or lost.

People have described being very stressed. They are constantly anxious. They talk about a repeating pattern of worry and panic. They worry about their gambling, and about the money they have lost. Then they are stressed about not having the funds to gamble, and by trying to find money to carry on gambling. Then they are stressed when they gamble and lose money again. And so, it goes on. Trying to keep all this hidden from others adds to the worry.

The rattiness comes in because you’re not sleeping, so you get quite jittery and ratty, and you just become a shell of what you are, really. And that’s all I can describe it as. Some days you can maybe function, you might have a few wins and you’re feeling quite good, but then even on those days, you’re looking for more. And so, it goes from something that’s a little five-minute bet to something that becomes your life, takes over your job, takes over your family life and it’s dark. It’s a very dark place to be.

But when you’ve got an addiction to gambling, it’s literally in your head all the time. You can’t think. Say if you’re doing a job, you can’t — you’re thinking of that in the back of your mind, you can’t concentrate on anything… I didn’t even know what day it was because I was just literally overwhelmed thinking about how much money I owed and that I couldn’t actually stop.

The deeper it goes, the less you do with people. I could engage with somebody tomorrow I didn’t know and really have conversations with them.
If I was in my addiction, probably within two or three weeks, the times of our meeting would decrease, the hours would decrease. If it was an hour, I’d say, “Oh, I’ve got half an hour today, that’s all,” because your time is important when you’re in addiction, this gambling addiction. Your time is important because you may miss that one dog that’s won, that was favourite. You might not get another favourite for another three races, so your time is really precious.
If people try and take that away from you when you’re in this addiction, yes, you have mood swings because you don’t want to engage with people because you don’t want to miss that favourite winning or that odds that you’ve been waiting for two to three days. Unfortunately, that’s how our brains train for that particular time, where engaging with people unless you’re in a bookmakers environment, is just something you don’t do. You wouldn’t do it.


People have said that they are plagued by intrusive thoughts about gambling. These are thoughts that come into your mind against your will, and you cannot get them out of your head. They experience urges and compulsions to gamble that are overwhelming. Several people have experienced visual images of gambling and physical sensations. It is extremely stressful and distressing to people that they can not control their gambling and they will gamble even if they do not want to.

It is still, there is urges. If I am in like an off mood, if I’m stressed, then this comes, still it comes, like a shadow. I’m not working. I’m not, because I know the technique. Gambling triangle techniques. No need to carry the cash, no need to do the – less distressed. So, all the things I know the techniques, how to beat the urges now. But before, Oh my God. I’m just swimming in that. There’s no way to beat those urges.


Self-stigma, shame, feeling they are behaving contrary to themselves and those around them, is damaging to a person’s mental health. People have said they feel as if it is all their fault. People have described hating themselves and feeling worthless. For some, gambling becomes a way of punishing themselves or self-harming.

I’ve tried to do stuff to stop being scared, and then I’ve done quite well, or very well with my life. I’ve been very lucky. But why should somebody like me be that lucky? I don’t deserve to be this lucky, and it wasn’t lucky it was hard work. But in my mind, it’s like you don’t deserve this, you don’t deserve this, and as soon as I found the gambling, I could just bring it right back down. It’s like the bloody army going in and just bombing quickly. You know, it’s terrible, terrible harm really, really quickly.

I think the only way I can describe it, the way I look at it sometimes, it’s like the last thing you think before you go to sleep is, “I’ve got to stop doing this”. And then you get up the next day and you start doing the thing you don’t like. See, it’s getting up every day to continue doing something you don’t like all day and then just thinking “I’ve got to stop”. But never being able to do it. That was it for me. It was just the constantly repeating the same thing all the time now, it’s doing real damage. So, to me, I was just trying to act in a way and it just became a self-punishment every day that you couldn’t get out of, you couldn’t stop, just repeat Groundhog Day. It just chipped away at you. Every day, another piece of what you are is eroded and gone. And I think that’s the best way I can describe it. That’s what it felt like for me, just shit, here we go again, here we go again – everyday.


Making people suicidal

Almost everyone who shared their experiences had thoughts of ending their life. Some come very close to trying to end their life. Some have attempted suicide.

This is because they feel so trapped by gambling. Many people feel as if there is no hope of ever being able to stop and escape. People feel as if they are the problem. They feel as if they cannot face other people or continue in society. People can believe that no one can help them. They may feel as if they don’t deserve to have help or a good life. They can think others would be better off without them.

You know, and then you’re sort of grappling through all this sort of smog to try and find a way forward and get up and go to work the next day, to look and act normal, as though nothing’s happened, you haven’t got a care in the world. Yet you’ve got the burden of the whole world on your shoulders, you know. And all you want to do is to kill yourself. Because that’s the only way out. That’s the only way it’s going to stop. Because nothing else is working and that’s, yeah, there’s a difference between thinking and doing, but I can honestly say there wasn’t a day I didn’t want to do that. It was constant. Yeah, it was a constant in my life. That was the only way out


I was very depressed and at a low that I’ve never felt in my life. Existing for a stage whilst having an addiction. I did have suicide thoughts twice, both whilst I was driving. I didn’t go through with it. Maybe because I’ve got two children, but you still thought it. It still went through my mind.

People may be driven towards ending their life when gambling has led to a point of crisis. They may be desperate battling with their financial situation following a gambling session. This may be a session with large losses. Or it could be when their gambling or crime they have committed due to gambling is exposed.

I was falling behind with a lot of payments for things. And I realized I was in trouble now. I was probably down to my last £50,000 and I started to panic. I felt like a rising panic of needing to win… I didn’t know whether to start playing poker again or stop and just keep the £50,000. And I panicked and £41,000 in one day unexpectedly. And that ultimately left me with 13 pence in my account, which ultimately left me in a very bad financial and physical and mental place. I had a bit of a breakdown, suicide attempt. And that’s as close to rock bottom as you can get as far as I’m concerned.

Where it had got so bad, I had committed fraud by abuse of position. That’s where my gambling had led me. So in the space of a week, I went from having my own place, partner, career, everything, to having to declare myself bankrupt, lost my job, got arrested, lost my partner, lost absolutely everything in the space of three days, so it was a very trying time… which did ultimately lead to attempted suicide.

Having thoughts and feelings of wanting to end their life is frightening and distressing to people. Some speak about how close they have been to ending their life. And that other people have not survived gambling harm. People often reflect on knowing people that have ended their life because of gambling.

You’ve got access to things to try and help you out to try and get straight but realistically, you’re just going down a deeper and deeper hole and eventually, it could lead to– You hear about people who’ve taken their own lives, because they’ve got in such a mess, the embarrassment, the shame, the money they owe. At times, you do think, “How can I get straight? How can I get back to normal? How can I pay this money back?” Questions are just going over and over in your head and then again, this is when you’re lying awake at night, and you do at times, you get some really dark thoughts as though, “Is there a way out from this?” I can almost understand why people do drastic things because you just don’t think there’s a way out.

For some, becoming suicidal is a turning point. This makes them see, it is either them or the gambling. They decide they want to live. Often it is the thought of what it would mean to people close to them, especially children, which keeps them from ending their life.

But I took out a 25 grand loan that night because I lost all the money, all the money for the builders. Fortunately, we’d paid a lot of it before, but there was still thousands and thousands to be paid to the builders. And then I took out a 25 grand loan and I put £22,000 into that Casumo account in two hours and 11 minutes. And, you know, nobody stopped it. I lost. I lost everything. And I stopped. I was like “thank God it’s gone” and something hit me at that point it was, you’re going to kill yourself? Because if you kill yourself, you’ve left them with nothing. Well go and get help. And I did.

People could also experience suicidality once they had stopped gambling. They are up against the after-effects of gambling on their lives and those around them, and feelings of shame, regret and loss.

Mentally as well, you’re all over the place. The mental aspect of it also falls in the long-term for me, because when I was gambling, I obviously there was a cycle of depression and stuff like that. When I stopped gambling, this sounds really silly, but I dreamt about it quite a lot. I’d wake up in the night, sweating, etc just after dreams. It took its toll on me, it really, really did, thinking about what if, and what if I would have stopped earlier, would we be in the debt that we were in at the time? It took me to a really, really dark place, to the stage where I actually attempted to commit suicide because of the after-effects of gambling.


Contributing to other addictions

A few people have said they experienced other addictions. This is often relates to coping with trauma or life challenges. Sometimes gambling more goes along with drinking more alcohol during a difficult time. However, several people have said that they started drinking more alcohol to cope with the stress and misery of gambling.

Whatever day I felt uneasy on the way to work, so I never planned to get off. I always planned to get to work, and I had this feeling the other week and I put a tweet about say, I’m on the train I feel uneasy but I’m getting to work. This is like a wonderful feeling because I wouldn’t have to been able to do this in the past. I just couldn’t stay on the train. I’d get off in Romford, and I’d get off at about eight o’clock in the morning. The Wetherspoons didn’t sell alcohol to 9:00, so I started going into the bookmakers. This is how it started in Romford was I’d go into Paddy Power. I don’t know why I chose Paddy Power because there was Paddy Power, BetFred, Coral, and Ladbrokes, all in a little square. And then there was a Wetherspoons next to that, and there was another Wetherspoons just down the road and it was just like pubs, and it was pubs, bookmakers, across the road a little loan sharks. Thank God I never had to go in there. But you know, it was that kind of set up and that kind of environment. And also, interestingly, right next to one of the worst train stations for suicide in the country, which, you know, which I’m not surprised, I’m not surprised about. So, I started going and gambling in bookmakers in some sense because it was necessary for me to do something before the beer was served, actually. And then when the beer was served, sometimes I would go into the pub and then go back to the bookmakers, or I would just go into the pub and get my laptop out.


It went from something that was a bit of fun and a buzz to something that just became all consuming… So, when you’ve got a gambling addiction, you don’t wake up and think “Right, I’ll have a bet at six o’clock”. You wake up thinking, “Right, what am I going to have a bet on today? How am I going to get this? I lost £2,000 yesterday, how am I going to get that back?” And you have your phone stuck to you because that’s all you’re doing. You’re thinking about it. You become anxious; you get depressed. You start taking other things. Like I said, I started drinking heavily. I couldn’t tell people what was going on.

I’d gamble on my phone, or if I was in a bath, I’d gamble. She was in a bath, I’d sit on the sofa and gamble. I was doing it all behind her back, getting away with it. She can’t see my bank account etc. I started doing that, and that kind of it lured me back in a little bit. I was still more for the drink, still just wanted the drink, wanted the drink, wanted the drink. That pattern carried on with the drink until I ended up in rehab. I ended up in rehab because of my drink but really it all started with my gambling and the gambling when my gambling was taken away from me, or I thought it was taken away from me through Gamstop I didn’t realize that that’s when my addict just attacked the drink. It had to have something. “Right, sod you. If you’re not going to give me gambling, I’m just going to go really hard on the drink.”



When people have stopped gambling, they can feel intense fatigue, which occurs after the stress. Initially, some individuals experience a sense of relief and euphoria that they have managed to stop.

However, this is followed by terrible sadness, regret, and grief. This is because they have to start coming to terms with the many consequences gambling difficulties have for themselves and those close to them. These are long-term or even lifelong.

A lot of people speak about the impact that their gambling experiences have on their mental health long after they have stopped gambling. Some people say that gambling has aged them physically. Or it is the cause of various physical health problems they now have.

In terms of the emotional impact of those sorts of things, there’s lots of feelings of guilt and shame and the sort of self-loathing that went with losing money that could have been used for other things. So, lots of regret, you know, which is really difficult to cope with, especially once I kind of have been on the journey to try and stop gambling. Those feelings really come to the front because then you’re like, my headspace was in a different place where I was reflecting on it all, and it’s really difficult because there’s those feelings of regret and resentment and shame that are really, really strong.

For me, my mental health, at the time of gambling, I thought I was okay when I was gambling, because it was distortion. And when really I was not, I was not okay at all. I was just going further and further down a hole. Coming out of gambling, my mental health has suffered in so many ways through loss and what gambling was taken away from me, and that is time with my family, rejection, shame, guilt. And I have to deal with all of this on a day to day basis. I have to get myself out of bed and try and tell myself that I am a good person, I just did bad things because of addiction. And that is an effort every single day to not go backwards, to try and move forwards.

I don’t want to say it’s destroyed my life because I don’t want it to define who I am and how I lead myself in the future. But the negative impacts, the mental impacts are long lasting. I suffer a lot with depression, anxiety, social anxiety through many years of just hiding away, just gambling and not speaking to friends and not interacting with the outside world other than dropping my son to school and things like that. And I still suffer really bad with my depression and my anxiety. And obviously not all of that is because of the gambling. But I’d say the vast, vast majority of that is because of where the gambling took me and the way it coerced my brain into making these decisions and hiding away from my emotions and responsibilities really, and it’s even three and a half years into being gamble free, it’s still very, very deep rooted these feelings and these thoughts that I still have.


I get a lot of physical symptoms, and I’m always at the doctor’s. I’ve being accused of being a hypochondriac, stuff like that, and I think in all honesty, because my body for years has been used to being so tense and so stressed, it would always give it like– I would have horrible heart palpitations and– What do you call them? Panic attacks, and I would get brain zaps, like electric shocks in my brain. It’s only just recently that they’ve just started to die down, but they’re still happening, and I can’t explain why, because I’m not anxious and I’m not worried about anything. I think it’s just like I said, my body is just so used to it. Don’t get us wrong, it died down massively, but that’s one thing.


How does it get to that kind of stress levels and what it must do to people mentally and physically? I’m coming to the acceptance of my life will probably be cut short by the amount of stress I’ve put myself through and the kind of physical impacts that I had after gambling, where I became really quite physically ill and had to have a major operation. Was that something that was hidden by gambling, created by gambling, exacerbated by it? Would it have healed itself?

People often say that the thought of relapsing can cause anxiety and panic. It feels necessary for them to be vigilant against gambling. This tends to be the case for the rest of their lives.

I still have relapse dreams. I wake up in the middle of the night and have this horrible feeling, just guilt, shame like I’ve let everyone down. It’s a dream at the end of the day, but it feels so real. I still have urges. World Cup’s coming up. Football for me, was always the big one. I don’t enjoy football anymore. I follow it, but I look back at the little kid I was watching football all the time, loving it, loving going to the match, things like that, but I just can’t enjoy it anymore as much as I do. Not in the way that football’s this evil thing that ruined my life. I associate it still with money, still with betting, so I don’t have that excitement as it was when a football bet was on it.


I was in the programme for about eight years and then work started to get in the way of it all. I stopped going to GA meetings because I couldn’t find the time to fit it in, but I still didn’t contemplate gambling until 2018. It was the day of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe in Paris and Frankie Dettori was riding a horse and I’d been watching all about this on Sky Sports News. The horse was called Enable and was 11/8. My partner had given me my bank cards back not long before.
I actually left home and went with my bank card in my back pocket and I was going to have £2000 on this horse. I got to within 20 feet of the betting shop door and the words of somebody that used to be my sponsor came flooding back. “You put a lot of time and effort into this program, don’t blow it.” I thought, “Here I am, I’m about to blow 10 years for what? If the horse wins, I’m going to be back on that greasy pole again, that it won’t stop with just having this bet that I’ll be back into the habit of betting again.” I came home, confessed to my partner what I’d almost done, and she persuaded me to go to a GA meeting the night after.

David #2

Because the sad fact is, as much as you want to say you recovered and you’re fine, it is always going to be there. I am going to have to be on guard the rest of my life to make sure that I don’t sneak back into it. And when I look at the things that have got me back into it in the past, it’s so innocuous. It’ll be an email, or it’ll be just something I’ll see on TV or something like that. It’ll just trigger something in my mind saying, “Oh, I’ll have a look. What harm can there be in having a look?”, and then you’re back in.

Gambling causes trauma

Several people have said that their experience of gambling has been traumatic. This is due to being addicted and not being able to control what they are doing. It is also due to the harm they and those close to them have suffered.

Some are left with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. They have flashbacks, nightmares, and panic attacks. People feel as if their life, sense of self and their relationships have been very disrupted. They feel as if their lives have been forever changed. That gambling companies have used and exploited them adds to their trauma. As does feeling that the government does not care about them.

I was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and they attributed that to the gambling, direct diagnosis from gambling harm.

It’s a matter of life. Like now, I am a dead horse. I’m not gambling now for three years, but I’m empty. I don’t have money. Still I have trauma, when I see the bookies shop, I am just shaking. It’s like trauma.

So I guess I knew I had a problem for a few years. And the reason I stopped was partly financial because I couldn’t afford to gamble anymore. And a kind of realisation that I, I had to get help. Yeah. But it was stopping was like a real sort of sense of grief because it was, I couldn’t believe that I’d never gamble again. And that was hard, still, is hard to deal with and obviously it is hard for other people to hear, you know that, but its that thing of it was such a big part of my life, for such a long time. The actual, the actual act of trying to stop and stopping was a real sort of sense of loss. Which is very dark, you know?


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