Understanding gambling addiction and how to help…

When you occasionally indulge in gambling, it could be a great avenue for easing stress and promoting social bonding. If you are, however, finding it difficult to control the impulse to gamble, you might have a gambling problem or addiction.


Photo by Michał Parzuchowski


What is gambling addiction and problem gambling?

Gambling addiction is often confused with problem gambling. The  National Council on Problem Gambling defines problem gambling as, “Gambling behavior which causes disruptions in any major area of life: psychological, physical, social or vocational.” Problem gambling is not necessarily an addiction disorder. Gambling addiction, on the other hand, is an impulse control disorder. It’s a severe form of problem gambling where the affected individual gambles compulsively even when it comes at a great cost. It follows that all gambling addicts have a gambling problem but not all problem gamblers have a gambling addiction.

Key statistics

  • About 15 out of every 100 Americans gamble at least once a week
  • About 7 million Americans meet the criteria for problem gambling
  • About 6% of college students have a gambling problem
  • People who start gambling early are at greater risk of developing a gambling problem. More than 40% of those with a gambling problem started gambling before their 17th birthday
  • The cost associated with gambling problem is estimated at $17 billion annually.


Photo by Steve Sawusch


What are the symptoms of gambling addiction

Unlike alcohol and drug addiction, gambling addiction may be much more difficult to notice because it comes with zero physical signs. Often, gambling addicts live in denial, refusing to face the problem themselves and hiding it from their loved ones. The following are some signs that should make you suspect a gambling problem

  • Gambling even when you are broke
  • Having trouble controlling the impulse to gamble even when you want to stop
  • Hiding your gambling behavior or gambling in secret
  • Feeling irritable whenever you think about stopping or cutting down on gambling
  • Gambling to relieve sadness or escape problems
  • Believing gambling is the only way you can win back your lost money

If left unattended, a gambling problem could result in serious complications such as relationship, financial, and legal problems. You should also know that there is a close association between gambling addiction and mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety disorder. A lot of gambling addicts are also known to have suicidal thoughts and some of them end up attempting suicide. It is important to seek help early if you think you or anyone you know is a gambling addict.


Photo by Jonathan Petersson


What are the available treatment options

Like all other expressions of addiction disorder, the first component of treatment is admitting there is a problem. While gambling addiction could be difficult to treat, a lot of progress would already be made once the addict admits there is a problem. The following are the common treatment options for people with problem gambling.

  • Therapy: Cognitive behavioral therapy can help you identify the gambling triggers in the hopes of replacing them with healthy and positive coping skills. Therapy may involve an outpatient tor inpatient program depending on the severity.
  • Medications: Because gambling addiction induces pathological changes in the brain and neurochemistry, some gambling addicts may need medications to help them overcome the problem.
  • Support groups: Talking with other people who have a problem and those who have been able to overcome the problem might help the treatment process.

Even after successful treatment, the possibility of relapse can never be eliminated. That is why treatment for an addiction disorder is considered a lifetime process. Having a relapse doesn’t make you weak or indiscipline. It only means you need to try harder and listen to your mental health specialist the more. Whatever happens, you must continually strive to do better and stick to the path of sobriety.



  1. What Is Problem Gambling? – Key differences between recreational gambling and problem gambling. (British Columbia Responsible & Problem Gambling Program). Available at https://www.bcresponsiblegambling.ca/problem-gambling/what-problem-gambling
  2. American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders(5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
  3. Van Holst, R.J., van den Brink, W., Veltman, D.J., & Goudriaan, A.E. (2010). Brain Imaging Studies in Pathological GamblingCurrent Psychiatry Reports, 12(5), 418-425.
  4. Karen F., Gambling Addiction Statistics. Available at https://addiction.lovetoknow.com/wiki/Gambling_and_Addiction_in_Las_Vegas_Interview




Catalina Magee

Founder / Owner of Trend Prive Magazine. Romanian-born American, "seasoned" in Italy, "cooked" in Germany and currently serving in Israel. NCIS Special Agent in Charge EA.

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