How to Spot a Gambling Problem

How to Spot a Gambling Problem

Gambling involves risking something of value in the hope of gaining something else of greater value. It stimulates the brain’s reward system in a similar way to drugs and alcohol and can cause addiction.

Some people develop pathological gambling (PG). PG is currently considered an impulse control disorder but is likely to be moved to a new category proposed for the upcoming edition of the Psychiatric Diagnostic Manual.


Gambling is any game or activity in which people risk something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. This can be anything from a single roll of the dice, spin of the roulette wheel or flip of the coin to an entire season of sports. Gambling is practiced in many settings including casinos, lotteries, online and private settings.

Some forms of gambling are legal while others are illegal in most states. Regardless of where it takes place, gambling is a social activity that is usually considered harmless or low-risk by participants. In most Western societies, adolescents begin to participate in gambling activities at an early age. Adolescent pathological gamblers can exhibit similar characteristics to adult pathological gamblers, though these tend to be expressed slightly differently. For example, while adults may spend their paycheck on gambling, adolescents will often take their iPods and video games to school or to their friends’ houses.


Gambling is an activity where something of value, like money or property, is staked on an uncertain event with the hope that a larger prize will be won. It is a popular pastime at casinos, lotteries, races, sports events and on the Internet. Depending on the culture, gambling may be considered harmless or sinful, respectable or corrupt, and legal or illegal.

There is no definitive answer as to the origins of gambling, but it is likely that people have been wagering on chance events for millennia. It is believed that playing cards first appeared in China in the 9th Century and were later adapted to be used in games such as poker and blackjack. Throughout history, rulers have banned and promoted gambling depending on their political ideology and the social context in which it occurred. In the 1800s, American president Andrew Jackson introduced a new focus on morality and the decline of legal gambling. However, the practice of gambling has remained a popular hobby worldwide to this day.


People with gambling problems are obsessed with the activity and may spend a lot of time playing. They often believe that a big win will solve financial or other problems. They may lie about their behaviour or hide their spending from others. They may be away from home or work for long periods. They might have mood swings, particularly when on a winning streak or if they’re not able to gamble.

Gambling becomes a problem when it interferes with personal and professional life, such as causing financial losses, bankruptcies or losing a job. It can also cause emotional distress, such as anxiety and depression. In extreme cases, these can lead to suicidal thoughts and tendencies. Gambling may also cause physical symptoms, including sleep deprivation and digestive difficulties. People who have a family history of addiction, or are under a lot of stress or depression can be at risk for developing gambling problems. These individuals need treatment and support as soon as possible.


As gambling is a behavioural addiction, it is not as easily detected as an addiction to biochemical substances like cocaine or alcohol. However, there are a number of behavioural, emotional and financial signs that may indicate a person is experiencing problems with gambling.

Among the treatments available for people with gambling disorder are cognitive behavioural therapy and relapse prevention counselling. Several studies have shown that these therapies are effective in helping people reduce their urge to gamble. Medications such as naltrexone and nalmefene, which are used to treat other psychiatric disorders, have also been shown to reduce gambling urges in some individuals.

The first step in getting help for a gambling problem is admitting that you have a problem. This can be difficult, especially when the habit has cost you money and strained relationships. However, it is important to remember that many people have recovered from gambling disorder and can rebuild their lives.