People with a gambling problem often start gambling as a way to escape feelings of loneliness. They see venues such as casinos or pubs as a way to meet new people and socialise, and this can be an attractive option for those struggling with feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Feelings of loneliness may also aid in the maintenance of gambling problems. A person may continue to gamble because going down to their local RSL or casino where they know some of the regulars or staff members might help them feel connected to the community. Gambling may also distract a person from the negative thoughts and feelings they wish to avoid. Problem gamblers often use gambling as a way to escape feelings of loneliness temporarily.
What is often misunderstood is the way in which problem gambling exacerbates or intensifies feelings of loneliness in the long-term. People with a gambling problem usually establish a regular and strict routine of gambling, which can include a significant amount of time alone in front of a poker machine, without interacting to or speaking to anyone. They may stop attending social functions or events which interfere with their gambling routine, such as birthdays, work functions or family celebrations.
Also, in response to feelings of shame or embarrassment, problem gamblers may become more secretive about their schedules and less inclined to talk openly with friends and family. All of these factors isolate the problem gambler from those around them, further intensifying feelings of loneliness. In these situations, the individual may feel that gambling is their only escape and may need to gamble more and more frequently to drive away growing feelings of isolation.
Speaking to a professional about the feelings of isolation and loneliness which often accompany problem gambling may be a useful strategy in breaking the cycle of loneliness. You’re not alone – call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858, or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au