Stigma and discrimination contribute to people feeling guilt, self-blame, self-hate, and shame. People experience intense negative feelings about themselves because they have gambling difficulties. They start to think that the stereotypes about ‘gamblers’ are true of them. This shame and self-stigma are damaging to people’s mental health and well-being. People often decide not to seek help as a result of these feelings. The experience of discrimination and stigma also harms mental well-being. Taken together, all these factors make the addiction and harm even more severe. People can become suicidal. In this way, stigma kills.
People have explained they feel shame and self-blame about their gambling but also about things that have happened because of their gambling. They feel that their behaviour is out of character and goes against who they are as a person. People’s self-worth suffers dramatically.
A few months into my recovery, I found a lump on my head and I got cancer, but I always say in my meetings, this is by far the worst illness on the planet. This is worse than cancer, in my opinion. I’m not knocking cancer, having gone through it myself, I’m not knocking it in any shape or form, but this one, only you can stop it. If you get cancer or any other illness, you got doctors to help you, get you better, but with this, it’s all mental, it’s all you. It takes your spirit away from you. Cancer didn’t take my spirit, but gambling did. It made me feel worthless like I wasn’t valued.
Feeling bad about themselves can lead people to believe that they do not have the ability to do anything about the situation they are in. Also, they want to avoid anyone knowing what is happening. People fear they will be judged, rejected or discriminated against and use secrecy to protect themselves. As a result, people are stuck in a desperate cycle of gambling, followed by terrible feelings, followed by more gambling. People often avoid telling anyone until they have ‘hit rock bottom’ or are ‘found out’.
I would emphasise that when you bury something, it’s not in the light. When you bring it into the light, it can be dealt with. You know, it can be dealt with. But when you bury it, it just manifests and manifests and the danger from that, the shame, you know, it’s what it does to your mental health, really and your relationships. You know, I’ve done things to people that, you know, as a 14-year-old boy, my mother would have said to me no, that’s impossible. You know, I’ve done things to people that, you know, are shameful, shameful, shameful things
Many people end up becoming suicidal. Having gambling difficulties causes them to feel such shame and humiliation, they can not face other people. They can feel like they are a burden and that other people would be better off without them. They feel helpless, that they do not deserve help and that no-one will be able to help them. The sense of being trapped in gambling with no way out can become so great, that suicide feels like the only escape.
It turns you into someone you’re not and keeps you there until you’ve got nothing left. At that point, being back to your normal self, you then try and rebuild your life. When you’re doing it, time and time again, it can drag you down mentally and physically. That’s when people start committing suicide and having suicidal thoughts because they can’t see a way out. The person that they’ve become is someone that they don’t want to be and never thought they would be… They think it’s best that they just commit suicide and be done with it rather than speak to people.
I remember sitting in my chair and it was just, what do I do now? There is no getting out, getting away with this. There’s no hiding this. This is really bad. At that point, I thought I’m just going to jump out of the window. I’m just going to jump out of the window before anybody can even see it. Before anybody can even see what I’ve done. I was too ashamed, too embarrassed, too guilty, everything. It was just everything was finished really in my head. It was that’s it.
People have said their recovery is often complicated by having to deal with the shame and damage to their self-worth.
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 – try and go backwards, to try and move forwards.