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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

  • Jul 18, 2019
Mental Health Education for Youth:  Focus on Mental Wellness

Despite frequent media coverage, public understanding of health and mental health issues is still lacking, according to recent study in the Journal of Mental Health. Overall, they concluded that people are “equally and relatively poorly informed” about relatively common mental and physical health conditions. A new study finds that education efforts for teens that specifically focus on mental health and well-being, rather than mental illness, can help.

  • Jul 15, 2019
Sense of Smell, Memories and Emotions

Many people have had the experience of a familiar smell bringing up a memory or a feeling. That is just one of several ways our sense of smell is associated with mental health and emotions. Memories associated with a specific odor may be particularly strong. In writing about the relation of these odor-evoked memories to our mental health, psychologist Rachel Herz, Ph.D., concludes that “from numerous perspectives it is evident that the autobiographical memories and emotional associations that are triggered by odors are essential to our psychological and physiological health.”

  • Jul 01, 2019
Is Internet Use Changing Our Brains?

It’s easy to see how much the internet has changed our lives. Most adults go online daily and more than one in four are online “almost constantly,” according to a recent Pew Research Center report. But is our extensive online activity affecting our brains? That is the question looked at in a recent study published in World Psychiatry. 

Upcoming Events
Feb
2019
01
Gamblers Anonymous
  • Fri,  Feb  01 - Thur,  Feb  28

Find a meeting near you. For individuals and families.

Feb
2019
01
Gam-Anon
  • Fri,  Feb  01 - Thur,  Feb  28

Find a meeting near you. For individuals and families.

Mar
2019
01
National Problem Gambling Awareness Month
  • Fri,  Mar  01 - Sun,  Mar  31

National Council on Problem Gambling

Jul
2019
19
National Conference on Problem Gambling
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Fri,  Jul  19 - Sun,  Jul  21

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.

Read More

Editor's Choice

APR 8 2019

Gambling for his life: Addiction to online gaming nearly cost one B.C. man everything

Vancouver Sun

Married with no children, and not working, still coping with depression, Hatch was at loose ends. He began to gamble casually online. There were no indications that gambling would become a problem. He was the guy who called it a day if he lost $100 at a casino.  Online, things were different. Hatch didn’t know it, but electronic gaming machines and video lottery terminals are tied to higher rates of gambling addiction.

MAR 14 2019

Expert Gives Signs of Problem Gambling and Where to Get Help

WXPR radio

Executive Director of the Wisconsin Council on Problem Gambling, Rose Blozinski details some warning signs "Things you want to pay attention to are you gambling more than you used to, are you spending more money than you used to, is it becoming an important part of your life, are you having financial issues because of it, are you having personal issues because of it, are you having suicidal thoughts that play into it? Those are a few of the basics somebody should pay attention to." 

MAR 12 2019

Problem gamblers at 15 times higher risk of suicide, study finds

The Guardian

Swedish research, if applied to UK, suggests 550 suicides a year are linked to gambling. Swedish academics found suicide rate was 19 times higher among men aged 20 to 49. People with a gambling problem are 15 times more likely to take their own life, according to the largest study of its kind, prompting calls for swifter action by the government to tackle betting addiction.

Physician Reviewed

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