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What is Gambling?


What is gambling?

Gambling is a game. A game that is fixed by a set of rules, in which a person wages his or her possession in hopes of winning a desirable return. In general, gambling is a game of chance: it can be exciting when you win big, or worrying when you lose, or perhaps, even intoxicating, without using alcohol or drugs. For some, gambling provides some form of entertainment or recreation. And for others, gambling becomes a problem. Problem gambling is an addiction condition, and it is classified as an impulse-control disorder under Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).

Anxiety and Depression

People who gamble excessively often feel strong emotions, such as anxiety and depression. Feeling anxious is a common when you take part in gambling. While the “gnawing” feeling may be unpleasant, it is a normal response to danger or threat. You may feel moody for a short period of time—e.g. feeling physical tensed and feeling aroused by a feeling of apprehension about the future. Depending on how much anxiety you felt, it can mobilize you or paralyze you. Overwhelming anxiety over a long period of time, could mean you need professional help.


Depression frequently occurs with anxiety. Depression is also called “depressive disorder” or “clinical depression.” It is a mood disorder that causes distress, it interferes with the way we think, feel, and behave. You may feel “down in the dumps”; you may feel physically tired most of the time; and you may feel restless or jumpy—e.g. easily irritated by trivial events. And with these emotional “storms” going on endlessly, this can make eating, sleeping, thinking and solving problems, the daily functions of life more difficult.


If you have some of the symptoms below for more than two weeks, you may have chronic anxiety and depression:

  • You have lost interest in the usual activities you enjoyed
  • You have little or no appetite
  • You have lost or gained weight
  • You can’t stop thinking about gambling or your problems
  • You feel hopeless, helpless, or despair over your situation
  • You feel guilty over and over again
  • You feel angry or easily irritated
  • You have difficulties thinking clearly; or remembering things
  • You have difficulties falling asleep; or maintaining sleep; or you sleep too much
  • You have lost interest in sex
  • You feel suicidal—thinking about “putting things in order”

In your day-to-day life, if you experience any of these difficulties (or know of someone who are experiencing them), you should seek professional help. Speak to a healthcare professional (a gambling counsellor or family doctor can help you deal with these debilitating experiences). Treatment may include medications, counselling, and/or other forms of support. Share with him or her about your gambling problems too.

Problem Gambling

Compulsive gamblers: are people who have lost control over their gambling behaviour. They are impulsive and are no longer able to make rational decisions—not to gamble. Compulsive gamblers gamble more often than they ought to, gamble away more money than they should, and gamble for longer period of time than they intended to. Consequently, these excessive gambling behaviours would often lead them to harm themselves or their families and friends.

Recognize some of the warning signs of problem gambling below:

  • You keep thinking about gambling
  • You feel restless and/or irritable when you try to cut down or stop gambling
  • You are unable to stop gambling regardless of losing or winning (despite vows to stop)
  • You chase losses (gamble another day, hoping to recoup your losses)
  • You borrow money or rely on others to clear your gambling debts
  • You believe when you are lucky and winning, it won’t stop
  • You lie to your family members or friends to hide your gambling behaviour
  • You jeopardize or lose important relationships because of gambling
  • You neglect your responsibility (e.g. always absent or late for work)
  • Your future goals and ambitions are replaced with gambling
  • You drink alcohol, take drugs, or sleep excessively to escape your problems
  • You break the law or use illegal means to finance gambling

Problem gambling in Singapore has been an increasing concern over the years. The major developments in legal gambling in Singapore, such as the two casino in Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa integrated resorts—posed increasing concerns and challenges in the area of problem gambling. It is thus, important to recognize and understand compulsive gambling behaviours in order to keep clear of gambling addiction.

Suicide Risk

For every suicide, at least 6 other people are intimately affected—i.e., “suicide survivors.” The common reactions to the loss of a loved one to whom has completed suicide is a complex mix of feelings, such as grief, self-blame, loss of confidence, and so on. The burden caused by the suicide falls on those closest to them. Suicide is unfortunate, which can be prevented—and suicide threat must be taken seriously.


Suicidal thinking occurs when a person feels overwhelmed by emotional pain. The suicidal person perceives that his or her problems are enduring and cannot be solved. Feeling hopeless, helpless, and worthless: one sees only futility in one’s situation or pursuit. And often, the suicidal people feels that all their efforts they have expended to deal with their problems went in vain. Living on is more difficult than ending it.


The Situation in Singapore

  • Suicide is the leading cause of death for those aged 10-29
  • There are 2.5 times more deaths from suicide than transport accidents in 2017
  • 361 lives were lost to suicide in 2017
  • Males account for more than 66.2% of all suicides in 2017
  • For every suicide, at least 6 suicide survivors are left behind

Source: Samaritans of Singapore (SOS).

Understand: The suicide rates of people who gamble excessively are higher. The people most likely to attempt suicide are those who also have mental illness or are heavy users of alcohol or drugs. People who have threatened suicide or hurt themselves in the past are at a heightened risk of suicide. If you are feeling suicidal or are making plans to end your life, seek help immediately. You are not alone in dealing with your difficulties.

What to do if you are feeling suicidal


If you are thinking about ending your life:


1. Talk to a professional to get help.

2. Remove anything from your environment that you may use to hurt yourself.

3. Postpone and urge to end your life.

4. Find company of people you trust and let them know how you are coping.

5. Avoid alcohol and drugs, take care of your basic needs — food, hygiene, rest.

6. Go to the A&E department of your nearest hospital.


“When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves. – Viktor Frankl”


Ascending Hope Community Services is a non-profitable organisation, dedicated to help problem gamblers and their family members overcome their problem.


Edited on 22 June 2019


  • Jerrie Low, writer is a counselling graduate at the Singapore University of Social Sciences.

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