When people realise they may be struggling with their gambling habits or other mental health issues, the first question a psychologist often hears is, “why me?”. The answer is usually unique to each individual and can be explored during treatment. However, there are a number of common risk factors that can predispose someone to experiencing gambling issues.
Growing Up with a Gambler
A significant portion of learning occurs through observation. Growing up watching a parent or guardian gamble can normalise the behaviour and you may have unconsciously learned to use it as a method for coping with stressful events. Additionally, you may have positive memories around gambling-related activities as a child.
Recent Psychosocial Stressors
Gambling is often used as an escape from psychosocial stressors – commonly problems at work, relationship issues, or financial difficulties. Gambling provides a distraction from whatever you may be worrying about but usually causes more distress in the long-term. As the level of stress increases, the time spent engaging in gambling activities also tends to increase.
Exposure to Trauma or Previous Mental Health Issues
Traumatic memories and untreated mental health issues often cause negative thoughts and distressing emotions that we can become desperate to avoid. Some people engage in unhelpful behaviours, like gambling, in an attempt to improve their mood and distract themselves from these upsetting thoughts and feelings. In the short-term the gambling can seem like a good way to cope but as with any unhelpful behaviour, it tends to become an additional problem to manage in the long term.
Addictive Personality Traits
Research advises against the idea of a generic personality that can predict a predisposition to addiction. However, there are certain personality traits that are common amongst those who experience difficulties with addiction, including:
- Low impulse control – acting in the moment without properly considering potential consequences
- Low distress tolerance – needing to get rid of unpleasant feelings because it’s too difficult to sit with them for even a short time
- High stress – being more likely to feel overwhelmed and experience higher levels of stress
- Low self-esteem – having a tendency to negatively evaluate your self-worth
- Social alienation – being more likely to experience difficulties in personal relationships and feel socially isolated
Some of these factors may sound more familiar than others but whatever lead you to struggle with gambling, PsychMed’s Intensive Gambling Service will help you treat and manage your issues. Contact us on 8232 2424 to find out more or call our SA Intensive Gambling Help Service on 8232 3333.