How to Recognize a Gambling Problem

Gambling involves risking something of value (money, property, or personal items) on an activity that depends primarily on chance in order to win money or a prize. It has been an important part of most societies since prerecorded history, and it is often incorporated into local customs and rites of passage. Although most people gamble for fun, some become seriously involved and develop a gambling disorder. Vulnerability is higher among those with lower incomes, especially men and young people. It is also more common in individuals with mental health problems and those with family members who have a gambling problem.

Problem gambling occurs when a person’s habit of gambling causes significant negative personal, social, or financial consequences. It can include gambling that is disruptive or damaging to family, work, and social life; a pattern of increasing betting or losing; lying to friends or family about the extent of gambling involvement; spending more time gambling than with family or friends; and jeopardizing employment, education, or career opportunities to gamble. In addition, problem gambling may cause a person to steal or commit fraud in order to finance their gambling.

It can be difficult to recognize a gambling problem in yourself or in someone you care about. Your family and friends might be able to help by identifying the signs of a problem, including:

If you have a problem with gambling, seek treatment or rehab as soon as possible. Many inpatient programs are available for those with severe gambling addictions that cannot be treated with outpatient services alone. These residential programs offer round-the-clock care to help you overcome your addiction.

Some individuals have a genetic predisposition to addictive behavior, particularly those with an underactive brain reward system and those with a tendency to act on impulses. These individuals are often prone to depression, stress, and substance abuse, which can trigger or worsen gambling disorders. In addition, some cultures view gambling as a normal pastime, making it harder to recognize a problem.

If you have a loved one with a gambling problem, try to be supportive. It can be challenging to watch someone you care about struggle with gambling, but remember that they didn’t choose to get hooked. You can also reach out to others in similar situations for support and to learn about coping strategies. Taking over management of the household finances can also help ensure that your loved one doesn’t continue to gamble. You should also seek treatment for underlying mood disorders, which can be made worse by gambling and can trigger gambling problems in the first place. It is also important to address any legal issues.