How to Recognise a Gambling Problem


Gambling is a common pastime, with many people enjoying the thrill of trying to win money. However, if it becomes an addiction, it can lead to financial crises and damaged relationships. If you think someone is struggling with gambling, there are ways to help. This article explains how to recognise a gambling problem, and offers advice on getting help for your loved one.

Generally, gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance with the aim of winning something else of value. The activity can be as simple as putting a bet on a football match, or as complicated as buying lottery or scratchcards. The bets are matched to ‘odds,’ which determine how much the gambler could win, and the odds are often displayed on the tickets or games.

The reasons why people gamble can vary, from the adrenaline rush of trying to win money to socialising with friends. Some people may also use gambling as a way to escape from their problems, or as a distraction from feelings of anxiety or depression. Gambling can cause a range of health problems, including stress, muscle pain and headaches, as well as problems with sleep and appetite. Some people are at a higher risk of developing a gambling problem because of genetics, or their environment. For example, some people are more likely to develop an addiction if their family members have a history of gambling problems or other addictive behaviours.

When someone is addicted to gambling, they may hide their behaviour from others or lie about how much time and money they spend on the activity. They might also start to rely on other people for money or support. They might also feel depressed or angry, which can trigger harmful behaviours like self-harm or suicidal thoughts. There is a strong link between mental health and gambling problems, so if you are worried about suicide or self-harm, call 999 or go to A&E immediately.

Those who have a gambling problem can seek help through treatment, support groups and self-help tips. The biggest step is admitting that you have a problem, which can be difficult, especially if it has led to financial ruin and strained or broken relationships. Some treatments include cognitive-behaviour therapy, which teaches people to challenge irrational beliefs and cravings. For those who have a severe gambling problem, inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programmes are available.

There are many things you can do to help someone with a gambling problem, such as setting boundaries in managing money. You should also encourage them to socialise with friends in non-gambling activities, and try to strengthen their support network. You can also offer them practical help, such as offering to pay bills or rent if they cannot afford them, or providing them with food. You might also consider taking on their responsibilities and helping them find employment or education opportunities. For those in financial crisis, StepChange can offer free debt advice.