Gambling can become compulsive for some people. Compulsive gamblers don’t
feel in control of their gambling even when they know their gambling is hurting
themselves or their loved ones. If you or a loved one is preoccupied with gambling,
spending more time and money on it than you want, chasing losses, or gambling
despite serious consequences, it’s important to seek help.
Signs & Symptoms
Gambling problems are more common among men. In a classic pattern, it progresses
from being an occasional activity to an ongoing habit and the size of the wagers
steadily increases. Compulsive gamblers may avoid daily responsibilities and
engage in illegal activity to support their habit. Compulsive gamblers often
have other behavioral disorders including panic disorder, depression, bipolar
disorder, and substance abuse, particularly alcoholism.
Compulsive gambling includes:
- Being secretive about gambling
- Having trouble controlling gambling, spending down to the last
Gambling even when there’s no more money, borrowing, stealing or
leveraging credit cards to fund gambling
- Becoming increasingly defensive about gambling
- Making family and friends increasingly worried as it spirals out
Tips & Recommendations
Compulsive gamblers are obsessed with gambling to the exclusion of other activities
in their lives. In the United States, the number of compulsive gamblers has
risen threefold over the past 20 years.
Gambling compulsion is sometimes referred to as a "hidden illness" because
there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like in drug or alcohol addiction.
Problem gamblers typically deny or minimize the problem. They also go to great
lengths to hide their gambling.
If you know someone who shows signs of having problems with gambling, try
to get them into treatment. Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTS) can help
you or a loved one cope with gambling problems. Gamblers
Anonymous, which is
modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, may also be a helpful support group.
Find a Therapist
Harvard Medical School: Compulsive Gambling
NCPG: National Council on Problem Gambling