What is Gambling?
When most people think of gambling, they think of going to the casino and playing slot machines and card or table games. But many other activities are forms of gambling, like:
- Lottery tickets or scratch tickets
- Sports betting, including online fantasy sports betting
- Online and mobile games
- Horse or dog race betting
Any time you risk something valuable on an event determined at least in part by chance with the hope of gaining something of value, you are gambling. For many people, gambling doesn’t cause problems, but some people may experience problems from gambling or develop gambling disorder.
What is Gambling Disorder?
Gambling Disorder, sometimes called gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is gambling behavior that causes significant problems or distress.
Not all people who struggle with gambling have gambling disorder, but they can still experience significant harm. Gambling that is harmful but doesn’t meet the diagnostic criteria for gambling disorder is sometimes called problem gambling, gambling-related problems, or intemperate gambling.
For Gambling Disorder to be diagnosed, a person must experience 4 or more of the following during the past year:
- Need to gamble with increasing amount of money to achieve the desired excitement
- Restless or irritable when trying to cut down or stop gambling
- Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back on, or stop gambling
- Frequent thoughts about gambling (such as reliving past gambling experiences, planning the next gambling venture, thinking of ways to get money to gamble)
- Often gambling when feeling distressed
- After losing money gambling, often returning to get even (referred to as “chasing” one’s losses)
- Lying to conceal gambling activity
- Jeopardizing or losing a significant relationship, job, or educational/career opportunity because of gambling
- Relying on others to help with money problems caused by gambling
Information provided by the American Psychiatric Association
Regardless of whether someone is diagnosed with Gambling Disorder, any distress caused by gambling is worthy of treatment. Without treatment, problem gambling may get worse over time; people with untreated Gambling Disorder might experience preoccupation with thoughts of gambling, feel like they need to gamble more and bet more money, feel restless or irritable when they try to stop gambling or cut back, chase their losses, or feel unable to stop.
Who is at risk of problem gambling?
Anyone can develop gambling-related problems, but there are certain factors that increase risk:
- Gender: Men are more likely than women to experience problems with gambling
- Family and cultural influence: People with family members who experience problem gambling or people who come from a culture where gambling is common are more likely to experience problem gambling
- Other mental health disorders, including substance use disorders: People with anxiety, depression, or substance use disorders are more likely to experience problem gambling.
What can I do if I am worried about my gambling?
If you are concerned about your own gambling habits, take the brief assessment below to help you examine your gambling.
- During the past 12 months, have you become restless, irritable, or anxious when trying to stop/cut down on gambling?
- During the past 12 months, have you tried to keep your family or friends from knowing how much you gambled?
- During the past 12 months did you have such financial trouble as a result of your gambling that you had to get help with living expenses from family, friends, or welfare?
If you answered “yes” to one or more questions, you may be struggling with issues related to gambling. However, this site is not a substitute for a clinical evaluation and cannot provide an actual diagnosis. Call the Helpline at 800.327.5050 or connect through chat to talk with a trained Helpline Specialist about finding a provider to guide you through a more thorough evaluation.
- You may also find it helpful to read First Steps to Change, a guide to help you understand your gambling, figure out if you need to change, and decide how to deal with the actual process of change.
- Mutual support groups can be a wonderful place to connect with others. Engage with a Gambler’s Anonymous group near you.
Please know that you are not alone. Reaching out for help is a big step and we encourage you to seek support as soon as possible.
What can I do if I am worried about my loved one’s gambling?
Problem gambling often takes a toll on family members and friends. It’s important to be supportive of your loved one and let them know you are there for them as they address their gambling problem. You can learn more about supporting a loved one with addiction here.
It’s also important to take care of yourself, so consider connecting with Gam-Anon, a mutual support group for people affected by another’s gambling. Call the Helpline at 800.327.5050 or connect via chat with a trained Helpline Specialist to find a group near you.