Negative emotions and gambling relapse


Negative emotions such as worry about finances and the guilt and shame associated with losing money through gambling are often the reasons people give for the decision to give up gambling. However, negative emotions can also trigger a relapse.

Negative emotions come in many forms – feeling bored, stressed, overwhelmed, sad, lonely and depressed. For example, Helen had stopped gambling 3 months before her relapse.  Helen attributed this relapse to being bored at home after her friend cancelled a movie date, this unexpected time and money were her downfall to gambling again:

I tried so hard not to gamble and was doing so well. Then out of the blue my friend cancelled our movie date. I decided that I deserved some fun so went to the pokies. It was fun for a moment but when my money was lost the cycle of gambling started over. I was so cross with myself. 

Often the gambling venue is perceived to be a safe space and a stress free space to get out of the house and away from the stresses of home. Sometimes, there are not many alternative places to go and socialise which can make a person vulnerable to a gambling relapse:

I could not wait for my husband to get home from his week away. I had been home all week with the kids. I was so stressed and just needed to get out the house and have a few hours to myself. I guess I should have known I would be stressed after my week alone and planned something with a friend for when my husband was home to babysit.

Sometimes feeling down or sad can be a significant risk for relapse. For example, you can get excited about the thought of gambling, which may make you feel better but also increases the risk of relapse. The relief gained from escaping these unpleasant emotions by gambling is only temporary as it is usually followed by more distress:

 Gambling was a way to make me feel better I would sit in front the machine for hours and forget my problems …… that’s why I relapsed. It made everything worse.

If you’d like some help call the Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling.


If you’re struggling with negative emotions, it is a good idea to seek some ongoing support.  A visit to a counsellor may be the place to start.

There is also a lot of support to be gained by looking at the posts on the forum at People struggling with keeping their resolutions about not gambling often have good information to share and you will be able to see that you are not alone in your struggles.


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