Gambling Related Harms: Mental and Psychological Harms

Remember that the odds are always in favour of the house

Over the past decade, gambling has surged in Nigeria, driven by the increase of the availability of betting shops, online gambling platforms and lottery schemes. The National Lottery Regulation Commission (NLRC) has reported a significant rise in the number of licensed operators and registered players across the country, highlighting the widespread appeal of gambling activities. Studies have shown that a sizeable proportion of gamblers in Nigeria develop gambling addiction, with estimates ranging from 2% to 8% of the population.

Gambling is a game of chance where you bet money on a certain outcome. The thrill of winning and fear of losing can lead to psychological dependence, causing gamblers to develop an obsession with gambling, thereby having adverse effect on their mental health. While some individuals may view gambling as a form of entertainment and a chance to win big, it is necessary to recognize that it can have severe consequences, particularly on mental and psychological well-being. Hence, the need for problem gambling to be raised as a public health concern and be addressed through the effective collaboration of the government and the necessary stakeholders in the industry.

A study conducted by the Nigeria Institute of Social and Economic Research (NISER) found that individuals with gambling problems were three times more likely to experience anxiety and depression compared to non-gamblers of the same age group. Compulsive gambling can cause excessive worry and nervousness, leading to physical symptoms such as sweating, rapid heartbeat and panic attacks. Chronic gamblers often experience significant financial losses due to their addiction. These financial losses can lead to overwhelming stress and anxiety as they struggle to meet basic needs, pay off debts and handle financial responsibilities.

In addition, people with gambling problems often experience feelings of guilt and shame, especially if their gambling behaviour has negatively affected their loved ones or resulted in dishonesty or illegal activities. These emotions can contribute to a cycle of self-destructivebehaviours and worsen anxiety and depression. Gambling addiction can further lead to isolation, as individuals may withdraw from family, friends and social activities to hide their gambling habits due to feelings of embarrassment and guilt. This issue has a significant impact on a person’s quality of life and can further aggravate other problems like excessive smoking, high alcohol intake and substance abuse.

According to the Federal Neuro-Psychiatric Hospital, Yaba, gambling related debt was identified as a significant factor contributing to suicide cases in Nigeria. The overwhelming stress, financial burdens and social consequences of gambling addiction can push individuals towards suicidal thoughts or behaviours, especially if they see no way out of their situations. The mental and emotional distress caused by gambling losses can lead to suicide attempts. In Nigeria, there is a stigma associated with seeking mental health treatment, especially for gambling related issues and as a result, some individuals see suicide as a way of escape. 

Therefore, in a bid to curb compulsive gambling in Nigeria and Africa at large, Gamble Alert has attended to over 120 cases of gambling addiction from Nigeria and Ghana. Gamble Alert has also recorded success in rescuing 4 compulsive gamblers who attempted suicide. Awareness on Gambling Risk Initiative, popularly known as Gamble Alert is a not for profit organization that attends to issues relating to problem gambling and underage gambling through sensitization programs, school tours, clinical and legal research and provision of rehabilitation to addicted punters. Gamble Alert carries out activities in line with the stipulations of the regulatory bodies and provides a safe space for individuals to share their experiences whilst ensuring solutions are proffered to compulsive gamblers who seek for help.

To conclude with, in order to address the mental health impacts of compulsive gambling in Nigeria, it is crucial to raise awareness about the issue, reduce stigma around mental health, provide accessible support services and promote responsible gambling practices. Policymakers, regulatory bodies and communities must work together to mitigate the negative impacts of gambling on mental well-being in Nigeria. Gamble Alert in collaboration with gaming regulatory bodies as well as Federal Neuro Psychiatric Hospital is working tirelessly to tackle the mental and psychological harms that arise due to problem gambling.

Gamble Alert is accessible across all social media platforms including Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. If you or someone you know is struggling with gambling addiction, kindly call Gamble Alert’s help line- 09162957989. Do not hesitate to reach out for help because seeking help is the first step towards recovery.

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