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Help With Gambling Disorder

Curated and updated for the community by APA

Gambling disorder involves repeated, problem gambling behavior. The behavior leads to problems for the individual, families, and society. Adults and adolescents with gambling disorder have trouble controlling their gambling. They will continue even when it causes significant problems.

A diagnosis of gambling disorder requires at least four of the following during the past year:
1. Need to gamble with increasing amounts to achieve the desired excitement.
2. Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling.
3. Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on or stop gambling.
4. Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling or planning future gambling).
5. Often gambling when feeling distressed.
6. After losing money gambling, often returning to get even. (This is referred to as "chasing" one's losses.)
7. Lying to hide gambling activity.
8. Risking or losing a close relationship, a job, or a school or job opportunity because of gambling.
9. Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling

See more on diagnosis, symptoms & treatment

  • Oct 05, 2021
Getting Better with Age: Most Older Adults Feel Positive About Their Mental Health

According to new research published in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, most older adults are feeling good about their mental health. The research is based on nationally representative survey of more than 2,000 adults aged 50-80, which found that 80% said their mental health was as good or better than it was 20 years ago.

  • Sep 30, 2021
AJ Klein, Linebacker for the Buffalo Bills, Talks Mental Health and the NFL

Austin Kayser, a 4th year medical student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health had the opportunity to sit down and talk with NFL linebacker AJ Klein of the Buffalo Bills. They talked about mental health in the NFL, stigma, recent high-profile cases of athletes sitting out for mental health reasons, and the value of therapy, among other topics.

  • Sep 27, 2021
Sleeping Like a Pro

Athletes are particularly adept at combining mind and body to maximize performance in sport. However, the same does not always apply to performance in sleep. Most researchers and doctors recommend 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night at a minimum, and less than that is considered insufficient sleep. While the overall rate of insufficient sleep in the general population is high, athletes are even more likely to suffer from lack of shut eye. Whether it’s due to traveling, practice schedules, or balancing training with school or work, athletes lag behind the average person when it comes to sleep.

Friends and family 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. Recent research has shown that up to 1 percent of the population is currently has a gambling disorder. There are many different warning signs that gambling is becoming a problem. The most common symptoms are lying about gambling, not stopping or controlling gambling, spending excessive amounts of time gambling and being preoccupied by gambling.

Any gambling behavior that creates harm, distress and life problems could signify a gambling disorder. For example, 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 a diagnostic criteria of gambling disorder. Even with the hope that it will help, giving money to friends 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 an excellent 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 Experts:


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

Hector Colon-Rivera MD, CMRO 
APM Medical Director, www.apmphila.org 
President of the APA Hispanic Caucus 

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.

Read More

Editor's Choice

MAY 15 2021

Sports betting skyrocketed in pandemic. Experts warn of a 'ticking time bomb' 


NBC News

OveDespite the proliferation of online gambling, in which large sums of money can be lost with a few clicks on a smartphone, federal and state governments still devote few resources to tracking and treating people with gambling problems, experts say. “It’s this ticking time bomb,” said Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling. “We have to take action now, but the problem is almost impossible to quantify.” of Ohio. 

 MAY 21 2021

Martyn Lycka’s Safe Bet Show focuses on problem gambling among military personnel

ABC Americas

Problem gambling is an issue which affects multiple demographics, but a new initiative by EPIC Risk Management has focused on one specific group – military personnel. In the latest episode of Martin Lycka’s Safe Bet Show, Brianne Dora-Schawohl, VP of US Policy and Strategic Development at EPIC Risk Management, spoke to the Entain responsible gaming chief about the group’s approach to service members. 

MAY  3 2021

Calls To Michigan Gambling Helpline Spiked In February
CBS Detroit

Calls to Michigan’s helpline for people struggling with gambling addiction spiked early this year, and researchers believe the timing is linked to the start of online gambling. The Michigan Problem Gambling Helpline received 563 calls about gambling addiction in February, more than five times the total for the same month in 2020.

Resources

Additional Resources and Organizations

Physician Reviewed

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