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
Peer support refers to people with the same types of problems helping each other. The concept of peer support has been used for many years among people with addictions, for example in Alcoholic Anonymous where people with “lived experience” help others to recover. The use of peer support with people with mental illness is more recent, particularly peer support in a professional capacity as part of the mental health care team.
March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month. The 2017 theme established by the National Council on Problem Gambling is “Have the Conversation,” and the focus is on increasing public awareness about prevention, treatment and recovery services and encouraging screening in health care settings.
Since rapid changes and uncertainty can be stressful for anyone regardless of political persuasion, it’s important to remain aware of our stress levels and proactively manage them.
Find a meeting near you. For individuals and families.
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 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
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FEB 9, 2017
“My gambling addiction had complete control over me,” J.K. said. “My every thought and more. I was lying to everyone, stealing money, my physical and mental states were in great despair.” In the back of her mind, she knew what she was doing was so incredibly wrong, but she just couldn’t stop herself. “I knew I was in great trouble and no matter how hard I tried, all the promises I made to myself and my family, I could not quit going,” J.K. said.
FEB 6, 2017
The military should screen its personnel for gambling disorder, just as it does for other addictive disorders, according to a government watchdog report. The Government Accountability Office released a study last week showing that less than 0.03 percent of service members were diagnosed with gambling disorder or were seen for problem gambling through the Military Health System between 2011 and 2015.
FEB 2, 2017
Individuals with substance or gambling addiction exhibited similar hypoactivation in the striatum during reward anticipation; however, responses to reward outcome differed.
JAN 28, 2017
The most common games played that brought on more than 13,000 gambling helpline calls in the Mountain State, Davis-Walton said, are video poker machines, slot machines and lottery games. There used to be more female callers, but now the helpline is receiving calls from roughly equal numbers of men and women. The most common age range for West Virginia is 46 to 55. A lot of shame and guilt goes into gambling. Lying, stealing and cheating are transgressions that typically come with it.
National Council on Problem Gambling
Problem Gambling Institute of Ontario - Gambling Online Self-Help Tools
Freedom from Problem Gambling, Self-Help Workbook (California Department of Public Health)
Gam-Anon (for families)
Gamblers Self-Assessment (California Department of Public Health)
Physician Review By:
Philip Wang, M.D., Dr.P.H.