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More than money: the hidden costs of gambling harm

More than money: the hidden costs of gambling harm

Markus knows a thing or two about the impacts of gambling.

“I gambled for 40 years, and for a lot of that time it was fun. It was entertainment,” Markus says.

Until one day, it wasn’t. Even though he wasn’t always losing particularly large amounts of money – and in fact, was sometimes winning big – Markus realised he was in a constant spiral of chasing losses, overspending and hiding the reality of his gambling from his loved ones.

“I woke up one day and realised gambling had affected every aspect of my life, my mental health, my work and my relationships,” he says. “It was costing me my self-esteem, my pride, my family and my friends.

“I’d never really thought about the consequences of gambling, and then all of a sudden it ambushed me.”

After four decades caught in addiction, Markus has not gambled in nine years.

In fact, now his focus is squarely on helping others. He is the lead peer support officer for the ACT Gambling Support Service, and he is happy to share his lived experience to provide others with the support they need to seek help for gambling addiction.

“I want to start a conversation about what gambling harm really looks like,” Markus says. “The first question I get asked is how much money did you win or lose, and I want people to appreciate that it’s about more than that.

“There are so many hidden harms beyond losing money.”

Some of those hidden harms and less obvious warning signs that your gambling may be causing harm include:

  • Strained relationships with friends and loved ones. Maybe your friends aren’t talking to you or you are always fighting with your partner, or someone close has expressed concern about your gambling or behaviour.
  • Feelings of anxiety, shame, guilt or remorse, or perhaps even depression and an urge to ‘hide away’ from the world.
  • Displays of behaviour that you don’t recognised or feel are not a true reflection of your character, such as lying about your gambling. 

“You don’t need to be experiencing all these things for your gambling to be causing harm to yourself or others,” says Markus. “Just one or two of the warning signs is enough – it might be time to reach out for help.

“Don’t wait for things to get worse.”

While Markus’ story had some dark moments, he says there is always hope for anyone struggling with gambling addiction – no matter how challenging things seem right now.

“I’ve lived the experience of gambling harm, and I came out the other end. There is always hope. All you need to do is reach out – there is always support for everyone.”

If there is anything in this article that has struck a chord with you – or you recognise the warning signs in a friend or family member – you can speak to a support person on 1800 858 858. This free, confidential and non-judgemental service is available 24/7.