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Notes from a Mental Health Nurse: Gambling Addiction

10 February 20 illustrations: Liv Auckland

Each month, our anonymous mental nurse, who has over two decades on experience working in Nottingham, will deal with a specific mental health issue with practical, accessible advice. This month, to fit the theme of our gaming special, they talk us through some advice on gambling addictions.

 

January 2020 saw the announcement that from Tuesday 14 April, bets using credit cards are to be banned. Further to that, the head of mental health services in England has written to five major gambling companies, demanding urgent action on tackling gambling addiction and its impact on people’s health. These actions may curb the more rational among us to think twice about parting with large sums of money. But what about those individuals who are impulsive, disinhibited or thrill-seeking? 

Gambling, like all addictions, may have started as a way of coping with feelings that you felt unable to deal with in any other way. It is a compulsion that is difficult to control, and you need help and support to stop. However, other mental health problems may manifest in a similar way but occur more acutely.

 An example of this would be in hypomania, which is characterised by an elevated mood state. I have worked with many individuals who have experienced feelings of euphoria and exhilaration and embarked on a spending spree with no regard for the consequence. The difference here is that with treatment, these compulsions and impulses do subside and return to normal behaviour. Sadly, there is often a trail of debt and the remorse can lead to low mood and depression.

I have witnessed how difficult it is for individuals to seek help with gambling addiction. It destroys families and relationships, causing loved ones to feel helpless and hopeless. The first step, as always, is to accept the fact that there is a problem. A desire to seek help and instigate change is key. The catalyst for this is unique for each person. Much to the frustration of others, only the person struggling with this terrible addiction can make this decision.

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