Research conducted by MentalHealth UK suggests that 8+ million people will be experiencing anxiety right now! What that anxiety looks like, and feels like, can vary substantially depending on the individual. It could be feelings of nervousness, dread or worry, a constant need for reassurance or validation or fear of bad things happening to you or someone you love. It can even manifest itself with physical symptoms such as headaches, upset stomach and increased heart rate or blood pressure.
If someone in your work place is experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s highly likely that their performance and productivity could be affected, which could have a knock-on effect on other people in the team or even the wider organisation. With anxiety as the theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, here at Betknowmore UK, we see this as an opportunity to raise awareness of the particularly problematic relationship that exists between gambling and anxiety, and how this manifests both in the personal and professional lives of people experiencing gambling harms.
For many people, gambling is something that they turn to in order to relieve anxiety – a form of escapism if you like. It can distract them from the underlying causes of their anxiety, and provide them with some respite or separation from those feelings. However, for people who have a problematic relationship with gambling, this may result in an increase in their gambling frequency, and the levels of risk they are willing to undertake, as they chase that temporary freedom from anxiety. Ultimately, their gambling may end up becoming another cause of anxiety, and as gambling harm issues begin to emerge, the gambler will often try to conceal the impact of those harms. This act alone - not being authentic and genuine to their true state of being - can have negative effects on mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.
When we think about the workplace, there are many things that could be considered to induce anxiety –fear of unemployment, conflict in the workplace, financial worries or intensity of workload. People who meet the criteria for so-called problem gambling /gambling addiction are at increased risk of unemployment and can be rendered less employable as a result of the knock-on effect of their gambling on their performance, attendance, timekeeping and indeed overall temperament.
From an organisational perspective, the majority of long-term absences from work can be linked to anxiety or stress. Furthermore, people experiencing gambling harms and the increased levels of anxiety that this can cause may be more prone to lapses in judgement or concentration. So, it really is crucial for organisations and individuals to recognise the signs that someone is experiencing anxiety, and to take steps to minimise this in the workplace. Those with the skills to do so can also facilitate conversations to identify whether there are underlying factors associated with gambling or other addictions.
Harry* is a member of our lived experience network who used to work in a call centre doing inbound sales whilst simultaneously living with a gambling addiction:
“This was an extremely stressful time in my life as I desperately needed the commission to keep myself financially afloat … and I’d often have to do lots of overtime … because I was blowing the majority of my money on gambling. The anxiety of needing to hit targets … and working so many hours absolutely destroyed my mental health…”
For Amanda*, the irony didn’t escape her that the act of gambling, and the extreme highs and lows that came with that, only caused her more anxiety:
“Gambling was a way for me to escape stress and anxiety in my life … after a tough day at work, I would ‘reward’ myself with funds to gamble … Gambling acted as a distraction from over thinking or ruminating on events that happened at work.”
Any form of addiction can induce anxiety and have a damaging impact on mental health. Patrick Ball from Musgrove and Ball brings his own unique and authentic lived experience into the work that he does, and he understands exactly how anxiety and addiction are closely linked:
“As my alcoholism and addictions progressed, it was the anxiety that led to me drinking through the night and into the morning. I didn’t want to sober up and face the reality of what I’d said or done. I’d much rather use Cocaine to keep me awake and allow me to drink longer. That way I could stay in my bubble hidden away drinking, using, gambling, not realising the damage I was doing to my body.
That’s where addiction wants you, on your own away from family and friends, vulnerable.”