Suicide and Gambling Addiction

Like all addictions, problem gambling and/or gambling addiction causes intense distress and continual disruptions in most areas of life: Individuals face grave financial problems, their families and relationships are in ruin, self-esteem has been decimated and a sense of helplessness and hopelessness is pervasive.  Suicide, attempted suicide and suicidal ideation is common among those diagnosed with a gambling addiction. By the time the devastation of the disease reaches the tipping point in the gambler’s life, “reaches bottom,” the addicted gambler sees every aspect of their life as being in turmoil/destroyed.  Suicide is all too common in those afflicted with the disease of problem/disordered gambling.

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.

A gambling problem many times is 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.   In addition, a person struggling with problem gambling may likely be struggling with mental health disorders.  Of those 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.  Addicted Gamblers need help, and help is available.

Individuals addicted to gambling also experience an increased chance of risk-taking behavior, which coincides with a high rate of suicidal ideation. A 1999 study conducted by Macallum et al. found that 38% of suicidal ideation is related to gambling, of which 8% of the subjects were actively suicidal. Moreover, of those surveyed, half of those actively suicidal had reported a previous attempt (Kennedy, Cook, Poole, Brunson, & Jones, 2005).  While it is difficult to obtain figures that provide definite reasons for causes of suicide, it is interesting to note that between 1999 and 2002, of 80 individuals seeking gambling treatment, 35 admitted to having considered suicide in relation to their gambling (Kennedy et al., 2005).

It is important to also note that 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.

If you or a family member are feeling suicidal or are making plans to end your life, get help right away.

-Call, chat or text the MD Problem Gambling Helpline, 1-800-GAMBLER, to be connected to a peer recovery specialist or a counselor knowledgeable about gambling addiction.

-Call 2-1-1 and press 1 if you and/or a loved one are feeling suicidal and at imminent risk

 

You don’t have to deal with your problems alone. Hope and help are a phone call away.

 

Article References:

https://online.csp.edu/blog/forensic-scholars-today/suicide-and-gambling, September 30, 2017

gsu.edu/~psyjge/Fact/suicide_04_10.pdf

International Journal of Mental Health Addiction (2006) 4: 191–193 DOI 10.1007/s11469-006-9030-z

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