Gambling Addiction – How to Recognise Your Problem Gambling


Gambling is the betting or staking of something of value (money, property or items of personal value) on an event with uncertain outcome, whether it is a game of chance, such as a football match or scratchcard, or a race. It includes all the activities and events that are based on chance, such as lotteries, scratchcards, and bingo games. Some people are able to gamble responsibly and enjoy it as an entertaining diversion, while others overindulge, ruining their lives with financial worries, relationship problems and criminal activity such as burglary or robbery. Some even take their own lives because of gambling addiction.

Gambling can be addictive for some people, even if they do not have a history of mental illness. It can cause a range of emotional problems and financial concerns, including stress, depression and anxiety. It also impacts family, friends and work and study performance. Problem gamblers often find it hard to recognise their problem and are reluctant to seek help. This can be because they feel that the problem is not their own fault but that it is a result of societal influences or that they are not responsible for their actions.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-IV (DSM-IV), the American Psychiatric Association’s official guide to psychological disorders, listed 10 warning signs of compulsive gambling. These include: (1) Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, reduce or stop gambling; (2) Continues to gamble even after experiencing significant losses (e.g., feeling helpless, guilty, anxious or depressed); (3) Lie to family members, therapists or others about the extent of their involvement in gambling; (4) Has jeopardised or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of gambling; and (5) Resorts to illegal acts, such as forgery, theft or embezzlement, in order to finance gambling.

Research is focusing on how people’s brains are wired to respond to rewards and risk. Those with an underactive brain reward system may be genetically predisposed to thrill-seeking behaviours and impulsivity. This could explain why some people are more prone to gambling addiction than others.

A key part of the solution to problem gambling is strengthening your support network. This can be done through face-to-face meetings with friends who do not gamble, joining a book club or sports team, enrolling in an education class, volunteering for a charity, or a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is patterned on Alcoholics Anonymous.

You can also find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant feelings and boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, practicing relaxation techniques or taking up a new hobby. If you are worried about your own or a loved one’s gambling habits, contact the Responsible Gambling Council for advice. The RGC is a not-for-profit organisation promoting safer gambling worldwide. Its services include free and confidential helplines, online counselling, and community projects. You can also visit their website for more information. They are also a source of free and impartial information on gambling laws in Canada.