Gambling and Mental Health: A Guide to Playing Games of Chance in a Healthy Way

When opting to gamble as a form of entertainment, you should always treat it for what it is – a fun activity to keep oneself entertained. Unfortunately, gambling disorders can remove the fun, and conditions such as compulsive gambling can be detrimental to your life, like drug or alcohol addictions. 

In today’s guide, we’re exploring mental health and gambling, and we’ll hopefully assist you in taking the steps to gambling healthily.

Understanding Compulsive Gambling 

Compulsive gambling is a gambling disorder. It involves the uncontrollable nature of gambling. As gambling involves risk in the hopes of receiving something of greater value, it’s understandable how people can fall into an unhealthy cycle. 

Problem gamblers continuously chase bets, which often results in losses, and can take effect on a life savings or credit card debut. Not everyone has an uncontrollable nature, and there are some key steps to help you avoid a compulsive gambling situation. 

Understand the difference: Games of skill versus games of chance

A skill game requires experience and understanding, such as poker, blackjack, or sports betting. However, chance or luck also plays a small part. With that said, a game of chance, like bingo, roulette, and slot machines, requires no skill whatsoever, and the fast-paced gameplay of these activities can arguably heighten the potential of a player to become a problem gambler. 

We’ll now look at several pieces of advice to ensure that gambling entertainment doesn’t become a negative activity in your life – specifically for those playing games of chance. 

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Set Limits 

With modern technology, casinos and sportsbooks, along with other convenient payment methods, make it incredibly easy to load your gambling account with playable funds within seconds. With sites that accept Paypal, you can utilize the trusted PayPal betting sites, and revel in the ease of swift and secure transactions. With PayPal, you may bet with complete assurance that your financial information is secure. This simplicity increases gambling accessibility, but it can also be risky if appropriate spending restrictions are not set. 

Before diving into any casino game or sports betting activity, it is crucial to decide what is affordable for you. Take a moment to assess your financial situation and determine an amount of money that you are comfortable allocating to gambling entertainment. Setting a budget ensures that you are not risking more than you can afford to lose, which is an essential aspect of responsible gambling.

Fortunately, most online gambling websites now offer players the option to set limits on their accounts. These limits can be in the form of deposit limits, loss limits, or even time limits. They act as a protective measure for users who struggle to resist the urge to continue gambling beyond a reasonable threshold. By utilizing these limits, you can maintain control over your gambling activities and prevent excessive spending or negative consequences.

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Don’t chase losses  

Losing is a significant part of gambling, as most of us will lose much more than we win. Once you’ve lost money beyond your limit, walk away. Chasing losses is one of the worst habits in gambling, and this mentality of trying to win back your losses will soon begin to impact your life.  

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: It’s an expense, not a job

Treat gambling like any other expense, such as going to the cinema. Remember that your paying a fixed price for the entertainment because, in the long term, most players will surrender more money than they gain. This approach will allow your winnings to become a bonus when they surface.  

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Time limits  

Research has indeed shown that the amount of time spent gambling can have a direct impact on the amount of money one may end up losing. To protect yourself from potential financial losses and maintain a healthy gambling experience, it's important to establish and adhere to time limits.

Setting a time limit for your gambling activities helps you manage your overall engagement and prevents excessive involvement that can lead to negative consequences. By allocating a specific amount of time for gambling and sticking to it, you can enjoy the entertainment aspect without getting caught up in extended sessions that may result in impulsive or unwise betting decisions.

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Read your emotions  

Are you gambling to keep yourself entertained? Or are you deciding to gamble because you want to earn money? For the latter, pay attention to your emotions and try to avoid gambling sites as a distraction from real-life situations because they’ll make it worse over time. 

Online or brick-and-mortar casinos should be fun; if your emotions don’t match the aforementioned premise, it’s time to question your motives for gambling. 

To effectively implement limits, utilize the features provided by online gambling platforms. Many websites offer session timers or reality check notifications, which remind you of how long you've been playing and prompt you to evaluate whether it's time to take a break or stop altogether. These tools can serve as valuable reminders to help you stay within your predetermined time frame.

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Keep yourself busy  

If gambling is the first activity you think of when you want to have fun, it could be a warning sign that it’s negatively impacting your life. Keep your life’s activities balanced, and avoid using casinos as your primary form of entertainment. 

Take into account other commitments in your life, such as work, family, and personal activities, and ensure that gambling does not interfere with or take precedence over these essential areas. It's crucial to strike a healthy balance between gambling as a recreational activity and the other aspects of your life. 

A Healthy Guide to Gambling: Conclusion   

Millions enjoy occasional and sensible gambling. However, suppose you, or somebody close, are gambling to make money, distract yourself from everyday issues, or spend more than what’s affordable. In that case, it’s time to evaluate whether or not a gambling problem is present. 

Remember that gambling should be seen as a form of entertainment, and setting limits is an integral part of maintaining a healthy approach to it. By establishing and adhering to your predetermined limits, you can enjoy the thrill of gambling while safeguarding your financial well-being and promoting responsible gaming practices.

If you ever find that gambling is negatively impacting your mental health or causing distress, it's important to seek support. Many reputable gambling platforms provide resources and helplines for individuals facing gambling-related problems. Don't hesitate to reach out for assistance if needed, as there are dedicated professionals available to help you navigate any challenges you may encounter along your gambling journey.

Caroline Buckee

Caroline Flannigan is an epidemiologist. She is an Associate Professor of Epidemiology and is the Associate Director of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

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