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Help With Gambling Disorder

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Gambling disorder involves repeated problematic gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress. It is also called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling.

For some people gambling becomes an addiction – the effects they get from gambling are similar to effects someone with alcoholism gets from alcohol. They can crave gambling the way someone craves alcohol or other substances. Compulsive gambling can lead to problems with finances, relationships and work, not to mention potential legal issues.

See definition, symptoms, & treatment

  • Mar 19, 2018
New Guidelines: All Teens Should be Screened for Depression

he American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has established new guidelines to help primary care clinicians to identify and treat adolescents with depression. The guidelines call for screening all teens and young adults age 12 to 21 for depression using a formal self-report screening tool.

  • Mar 13, 2018
Gambling Problems: A Risk in Retirement?

While many people enjoy gambling for entertainment, for others gambling becomes extreme and out of control, causing distress and problems in their life. While gambling disorder affects a relatively small number of people, 2 percent of the adult population, it can have devastating social, emotional and financial impacts. Older adults may be particularly vulnerable to problems with gambling.

  • Mar 05, 2018
The Best Foods to Support Mental Health May Depend on Your Age

The foods we eat can affect our mental well-being, but the foods we need to help maintain and improve mental health may be different for young adults than for older adults, according to a new study from State University of New York at Binghamton.

Upcoming Events
Gamblers Anonymous
  • Thur,  Mar  01 - Sat,  Mar  31

Find a meeting near you. For individuals and families.

  • Thur,  Mar  01 - Sat,  Mar  31

Find a meeting near you. For individuals and families.

National Problem Gambling Awareness Month
  • Thur,  Mar  01 - Sat,  Mar  31

National Council on Problem Gambling

A couple of friends and family members have told me they are concerned about my gambling, but I don’t think I have a problem, I just gamble for fun. How can I tell if I have a problem?

Gambling is a common, legal form of entertainment and recreation that is enjoyed by millions of people every day. The vast majority of people who gamble are able to do so without any long-lasting problems or harm. But, like alcohol, tobacco or drugs of abuse, gambling can become an addiction, and recent research has shown that up to 1 percent of the population is currently suffering from a gambling disorder. There are many different warning signs that gambling is becoming a problem. Among the most common signs are lying about gambling, not being able to stop or control gambling, spending excessive amounts of time gambling and being preoccupied by gambling.

Any gambling behavior that creates harm, distress and negative life problems could be a sign of a gambling disorder. Two simple questions to ask are: “Have you ever had to lie to people important to you about how much you gambled?” and “Have you ever felt the need to bet more and more money?” A yes answer to either question suggests that there may be a gambling problem. Read More

My friend is a frequent gambler and has repeatedly asked me for money. Should I help him out so he doesn’t get in legal trouble, or is that just contributing to the problem and allowing him to avoid getting help?

Borrowing money to relieve desperate financial problems caused by gambling is one of the diagnostic criteria of gambling disorder. Giving money to friends, even with the hope that it will help, often backfires and creates more problems and stress. A healthier way to help out a friend who is asking for money is to share your concern about borrowing money. Friends will appreciate sincere honesty, an expression of concern and an offer to help out emotionally. Maintaining a firm financial boundary of not giving money to a friend “in need” will help to motivate them to seek professional help or help them to see how serious their problem may be. Read More

I believe my husband has a gambling problem; would Gamblers Anonymous be a good place to suggest he start to get help?

Gambler’s Anonymous (GA) is a self-help group, based in the principles of 12-step recovery. It is available both for people with gambling disorders and for family members (Gam-Anon). This is an excellent place to start to seek immediate assistance with support, education and learning about the recovery process. GA is not a substitute for professional treatment and anyone with a gambling disorder or affected by someone’s gambling should seek professional help. Many states have problem gambling helplines that can provide referrals to professional treatment providers. The national problem gambling helpline is 1-800-522-4700. For states that do not have gambling treatment services, a good starting place would be to seek help from any locally trained addiction treatment program or specialist. Read More


About the Expert:

Timothy Fong, M.D.
Associate Clinical Professor of Psychiatry
Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA
Co-director, UCLA Gambling Studies Program

Mitchell's Story

Mitchell is a 43-year-old married man with two children, ages 12 and 9. He enjoyed gambling during high school and college, mainly with friends on occasional trips to Las Vegas or home poker games. In 2010, after securing a new job, he and his family moved to the West Coast. As part of this move, he relocated to a new home that was about 25 minutes from a casino. In 2012, his company downsized and he lost his job, which was shocking to him but not devastating. His wife went back to work and he became a stay-at-home dad.

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JAN 11, 2018

UMass Team Reports Gambling Research to Gaming Commission

Business West

Results of a baseline study on gambling behavior in Massachusetts that establishes how people participated — or not — in gambling prior to the opening of any casinos were reported this week to the Massachusetts Gaming Commission (MGC) by epidemiologist Rachel Volberg and colleagues at UMass Amherst’s School of Public Health and Health Sciences. It is the first major cohort study of adult gambling to be carried out in the U.S.  One interesting finding is “the apparent ease with which people move in and out of problem-gambling status within a given year,” the lead author pointed out. “It’s pretty clear that people phase in and out of the problem gambling group. This movement is different than the way problem gambling has been characterized in the past. Until recently, the general orientation has been that disordered gambling is an unremitting chronic condition.”

JAN 8, 2018

Scientists Looking Into Implants, Nasal Sprays to Combat Gambling Addiction

Scientists around the globe are looking into ways to treat or prevent these problems, with a couple of unusual solutions making headlines just this week. A team at the Stanford University Medical Center released a paper last month in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences which explored the potential for using brain implants to prevent addictive and impulsive behavior. The research team found that electrical signals in the brain could predict some pathological behaviors. Finnish health experts are planning a study that will see if a common nasal spray that is used to treat opiate overdoses could also help prevent obsessive gambling issues.

JAN 8, 2018

Gambling addicts need a better deal. Irreparable damage by glamorizing

The Daily Gazette

One doesn’t just stop addictive gambling behavior. It takes a lot of soul searching, hard work, determination, individual therapy and group support. Most importantly, it takes a desire to replace the gambling high with other meaningful activities. Addiction promotes destruction of family ties, physical, emotional, and financial devastation, even thoughts and acts of suicide.