Most people have some need for social interaction – even if that is a quick chat with our bus driver, or a phone call from a friend or family member. All of us have different ‘needs’ for social interaction – very low (one or two friends or acquaintances) to very high (many different friends and social groups). Generally, though, as humans, we do struggle when we are isolated – whether because of illness, conflict, work commitments or exclusion. When we have an unmet social need, we will often have strong feelings of discontent, which is hard to tolerate.
Having some supports around us generally helps when we are going through a rough time. Even in daily life, having the opportunity to socialise and interact with others lifts our mood and creates feelings of connectedness and security. Feeling like we are part of something bigger – whether that is a family, sporting group or community, can help us to feel supported and connected.
So how does my social interaction impact my gambling?
Just like with your other needs, it can go both ways. Unmet social needs can create feelings of loneliness and isolation, which can put people at risk of problem gambling. Often these people gamble to feel part of a social group or to fill the loneliness and isolation they may be experiencing.
After her children had left home, Nancy noticed herself feeling lonely and isolated. Her role as a single parent had taken up all of her time and energy, and she had lost touch with a lot of her old friends and acquaintances. She no longer felt part of her family as her children were living interstate. She began to visit the pokies in the evenings and on weekends to help fill the loneliness she was experiencing. She relied more and more on gambling to help meet her needs of having social contacts. Gambling soon became a major problem for Nancy.
I was fine at work, but as soon as I got home and was eating dinner by myself, I was triggered to go to the club. When I was there I didn’t feel lonely any more – I was somewhere that felt safe, was warm, and the staff knew me and were friendly and welcoming. That was what kept me going back there even when I knew I had to stop. It took me a while to find other social outlets but now I have other places to turn to when I feel that loneliness returning.
Similarly, gambling can impact a person’s social life and friendships significantly. Daniel had previously gambled with his friends on the weekends and on nights out. As his gambling increased, however, he started going by himself during the day. Soon he found that he couldn’t afford to go out with his friends, as all his money had gone on gambling.
I felt trapped in the cycle of gambling everything, waiting for the next pay, then gamble that to try to win back what I’d lost. My friends were always giving me a hard time for not coming to dinners or birthday parties, but I was too ashamed to tell them that I’d spent all my money. I got more and more isolated and stopped hanging out with them altogether. Luckily one of my friends saw me at a venue one day and had a talk to me about it, and gave me the number for the helpline.
Do you experience isolation and loneliness, either as a result of your gambling or another issue? Click on the link below to find out more: http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/take-action/search-results.
You can also call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling to a counselor.