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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.

People with gambling disorder often hide their behavior. They may lie to family members and others to cover up their behavior and may turn to others for help with financial problems. Some gamblers are seeking excitement or action in gambling, others are looking more for escape or numbing.

See more on symptoms, & treatment

  • May 17, 2021
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  • May 17, 2021
How Nutrition Impacts Mental Health

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  • May 06, 2021
Nature’s Benefits for Mental Health May Not Work So Well When Pressured

During the more than a year of pandemic restrictions, access to parks and other green spaces have been very important escapes for many, offering a place to go for exercise and social interaction when other options weren’t available. Fifteen national parks set new recreation visitation records in 2020, despite temporary park closures and restrictions in response to the pandemic.

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

expert-fong

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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Editor's Choice

JAN 7 2021

Real money, virtual addiction — gaming 'loot boxes' introduce gambling at a young age, experts say

Cleveland News

Over the holidays, you might have given your kids some video games, but those games might not be as harmless you think when it comes to gambling. 5 On Your Side Investigators took a closer look at a local family’s tragic loss, loot boxes, and possible in-roads to gambling that kids and adults may not have considered. “Gaming, gambling — neither of them are inherently bad, but they do come with risks,” said Mike Buzzelli from the Problem Gambling Network of Ohio. 

 DEC 14 2020

What Is Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling?

Gambling News

Gambling addiction is a clinically recognized problem that requires special therapy and medical intervention in most cases to achieve full recovery. Not all people are at risk of developing compulsive or pathological gambling. In fact, most people are able to resist, but a good number of people are experiencing problem gambling or are at risk of becoming compulsive gamblers themselves. Gambling affects more men than women, but it is a genderless disorder with a high incidence across the human population. 

NOV  25 2020

Las Vegas counselor sees rise in problem gambling during pandemic
Minneapolis Star Tribune

Most Minnesotans who gamble (78%), do so as entertainment and do not suffer serious negative consequences. However, on behalf of those who struggle, I’m asking Minnesotans to see beyond the “sin.”  The impact of a gambling disorder on individuals and their families is devastating. It is a disease of the brain, one with few outward signs. As an advocate with Northstar Problem Gambling Alliance (NPGA), I’d like to share the most basic facts about gambling addiction.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Physician Reviewed

Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H.
August 2018