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7 ways gambling can harm you — and what to do about it

By Natalie Herron (Clinical Psychology Registrar) & Dr Anastasia Hronis (Clinical Psychologist)

If you are thinking about your gambling and gambling behaviours, an important question to ask yourself is, what is gambling costing me in my life?

For many people, gambling can result in a lot of harm, not only for themselves, but those they’re close to. In fact, there are seven distinct ways in which people can experience gambling-related harm to varying degrees.

These seven areas are:

  • relationship difficulties (e.g. conflict or tension with important loved ones)
  • health problems (e.g. excessive worry or stress, sleep problems)
  • emotional distress (e.g. feeling worthless or not good enough)
  • financial problems (e.g. accumulating debt)
  • issues with work (e.g. being distracted at work because you’re thinking about gambling)
  • cultural problems (e.g. loss of identity)
  • criminal activity (e.g. stealing to finance gambling).

(For more information see Types of harm from gambling (

Considering how impactful gambling can be, how can you build motivation to change your behaviours?

Something that might be helpful for you to do is develop a pros/cons list of acting on gambling urges. For example, are there any advantages to gambling and acting on the desire or impulse to gamble? What are the disadvantages? (Maybe they’re some of the points mentioned above).

Also importantly, what are the advantages of resisting the urge or impulse to gamble? What are the disadvantages? This list will be personal for you, but here is an example below to get you started:

Acting on the urge to gamble
  • Feels good in the moment
  • Provides a temporary escape
  • Can be a temporary distraction from problems
  • My partner will be angry with me
  • I won’t be able to pay the bills
  • I’ll feel so guilty that I won’t be able to sleep
  • Losing money
  • In the long run, I risk developing a serious addiction to gambling
Resisting urge to gamble
  • I will feel proud of myself
  • I won’t have to worry about finances or paying bills
  • I won’t have to experience feelings of guilt or shame
  • It helps me work towards the life I want to live
  • I will be able to spend quality time doing the things I find meaningful — like playing with my child instead
  • It is really uncomfortable because the urge to gamble is so strong

If you do write these out, be sure to carry them with you so they’re easily accessible. Also consider rehearsing your pros and cons over and over again! When rehearsing them, it can be extra powerful to imagine the positive short-term (just today) and long-term (tomorrow and beyond) consequences of resisting the urge, as well as considering the short-term and long-term negative consequences if you were to gamble.

For more support on this topic or any gambling issue you might want to talk about, call Gambler’s Help on 1800 858 858.


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