The Stigma Surrounding Problem Gambling and Promoting Self-Care
On July 24th, we are celebrating International Self Care Day, chosen to emphasize to our global community that self-care is a cornerstone to overall wellness. As we continue to find out more and more just how important self-care is today, we learn that it is more than something we do for ourselves. By caring for our mental, physical, and emotional health, it not only helps us but the side effect can help promote healthy relationships. Part of this self-care conversation intertwines with someone who may have a gambling problem because of the stigma that goes along with it. This can weigh heavily on their self-worth and self-esteem and cause many problems for not only problem gamblers but can also affect up to 9 or 10 people around them. Keep reading to learn more about the link between problem gambling, health, and the stigma one feels in seeking out recovery resources, as well as helpful self-care tips.
The impacts of disordered gambling reach much farther than many people assume. Those who struggle with problem gambling are more likely to deal with stress-related conditions, including sleep deprivation, cardiovascular diseases, and hypertension.  Additionally, problem gambling can take a toll on one’s mental health, as it can worsen or initiate depressive episodes and anxiety, as well as lead to substance use disorders.  This perceived stigma can cause internal strife and interfere with help-seeking efforts.
There are also social impacts, as compulsive gambling can strain relationships, lead to legal troubles, and threaten job security.  While these issues are not one-size-fits-all and those who struggle with problem gambling may experience a mix of these impacts, each highlights the importance of prioritizing self-care and taking proactive steps to protect health.
One thing that might hold people back from taking care of themselves is the stigma attached to problem gambling and recovery. In general, people may not seek help for problem gambling in fear of judgment from others and being labeled a “problem gambler.”  There are also more gender-specific stigmas — for example, women are often viewed as caregivers, and struggling with problem gambling can be viewed as irresponsible and this shame prevents these women from admitting their struggle and getting the care they deserve.  For men, they fear the perceived embarrassment and shame that could come from seeking recovery resources.  In society, men are supposed to be strong and be able to stop or control themselves so it becomes self-perceived as failure. It’s important to remember that there is no shame in seeking help, and that the best favor anyone can do for themselves and their loved ones is to protect and promote self-care and wellness through problem gambling recovery.
So, what does self-care actually look like? For those struggling with problem gambling, the first step to better self-care is seeking out Your One Sure Thing, 888-ADMIT-IT. You can call, text, or chat this 24/7, multilingual, and completely free HelpLine as it can help those who might have a problem with gambling and their loved ones take the first step to a better future. Additional tips for practicing self-care include:
- Getting regular exercise
- Eating healthy
- Prioritizing a good sleep cycle
- Trying a new hobby
- Participating in relaxing activities
- Goal setting
- Practicing gratitude
- Staying connected to community 
This International Self-Care Day is the perfect opportunity to take a positive step in the right direction. Taking care of one’s self, whether it’s through seeking recovery resources or one of the helpful tips above, is crucial when overcoming a problem gambling addiction and creating a life full of joy.
- Matheson, Flora I., et al. “The Use of Self-Management Strategies for Problem Gambling: A Scoping Review .” BioMed Central, 29 Apr. 2019, bmcpublichealth.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12889-019-6755-8.
- Hing, Nerilee, et al. “Perceived Stigma and Self-Stigma of Problem Gambling …” Taylor & Francis Online, 15 Nov. 2015, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/14459795.2015.1092566.
- “Female Gamblers and Mental Health.” Algamus, 12 May 2022, www.algamus.org/blog/female-gamblers-mental-health.
- Baxter, Alison, et al. “Gender Differences in Felt Stigma and Barriers to Help-Seeking for Problem Gambling.” Addictive Behaviors Reports, 3 Nov. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5845950/#:~:text=Men%20are%20less%20likely%20to,lose%20an%20important%20social%20network.
- “Caring for Your Mental Health.” National Institute of Mental Health, www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/caring-for-your-mental-health.