Gambling – Recognising the Signs of Problem Gambling


Gambling is the wagering of something of value (usually money) on an event with a random outcome, where instances of strategy are discounted. Examples of gambling include lottery tickets, cards, bingo, sports events, casino games and slot machines. Gambling can cause emotional, financial and social harm to individuals and families.

It is important to recognise the signs of problem gambling and seek help. Getting professional help can help stop the behaviour, repair relationships and return to normal life. There are a number of organisations that offer support, assistance and counselling for people who have a gambling problem. Some offer support for affected family and friends as well.

While the underlying causes of pathological gambling remain unclear, research in neuroscience is advancing our understanding of how an individual’s brain responds to the rewards of gambling and how these responses differ from healthy brains. This new understanding will help psychiatrists better diagnose and treat compulsive gambling.

There are many ways to get help for a gambling problem, including individual and group therapy and psychoeducational workshops. In addition, there are many self-help groups that can provide help and support to people with gambling problems.

Most importantly, you should be sure to talk openly with your loved one about his or her gambling habits and seek help if necessary. It is also important to remember that while you may feel anger, frustration and disappointment at your loved one’s behavior, he or she did not choose to gamble compulsively and did not become an addict against his or her will. People gamble for a variety of reasons, including for coping with stress or depression, to escape from painful feelings, and for the excitement and euphoria that can come from winning.

Downplaying or lying about your gambling habits, hiding evidence of your gambling activities, and using other people’s money to fund your gambling are all signs that you may have a gambling problem. Having someone else control your money and/or closing online betting accounts can also help prevent gambling from occurring.

The most effective treatment for a gambling disorder is behavioural therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy, which can be offered individually or in groups. In addition, psychoeducational workshops and family therapy can be helpful. Some people with gambling disorders have coexisting mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, which can also be treated.

Longitudinal studies can be the most powerful tool for identifying factors that influence gambling participation. However, longitudinal studies can be expensive and challenging to conduct, due to issues such as maintaining research team continuity over a long period of time, sample attrition and confounding effects (e.g., is a person’s new interest in gambling related to aging or because of the opening of a new casino?).

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not approve medications to treat gambling disorders, but several types of psychotherapy can be helpful. Psychotherapy refers to a broad range of treatments that aim to help a person identify and change unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors. It can take place with a licensed mental health professional, such as a psychologist or clinical social worker.