stress relief

Problem Gambling: What is it and How is it treated?

Problem Gambling

Problem gambling (gambling addiction or compulsive gambling) is classified by the DSM – 5 as an addiction disorder with sufferers exhibiting many similarities to those who have substance addictions. It is defined as an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences, to the person or their families, or a desire to stop.


There are both environmental and genetic factors that can influence on gambler and cause some type of addiction. In order to be diagnosed, an individual must have at least four of the following symptoms in a 12-month period:

  • The person needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired level of excitement.
  • The person is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • The person has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or even stop gambling.
  • The person is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble)
  • The person will often gamble when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed)
  • After losing money the gambler often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses)
  • The person often lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling or money lost.
  • The person will have or may have jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, education or career opportunity because of gambling.
  • The person may have relied on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.

Recognising you have a problem? (or someone you love has a problem)

Try and answer these questions truthfully (if to no one else to yourself)

  • Do you sometimes spend more money and time on gambling than you can afford to?
  • Do you find it hard to stop or manage your gambling?
  • Do you have arguments with family or friends about money and gambling?
  • Do you always think or talk about gambling?
  • Do you lie about gambling or hide it from other people?
  • Do you chase losses or gamble to get out of financial trouble?
  • Do you gamble until all of your money is gone?
  • Do you borrow money, sell possessions or do not pay bills in order to pay for gambling?
  • Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money or for a longer time to get the same feeling of excitement or buzz?
  • Do you neglect work, school, family, personal needs or household responsibilities because of gambling?
  • Do you feel anxious, worried, guilty, depressed or irritable because of gambling?
  • Do you consider or have considered an illegal act to finance your gambling?
  • Do you gamble to escape worry, trouble, boredom or loneliness?
  • Do you have difficulty sleeping because of gambling?

If you have answered yes to some of these questions it doesn’t mean you have an addiction but it may be you are developing a problem with gambling and should consider taking the necessary steps to talk it through with someone.


Most treatment for problem gambling involves counselling, step-based programs, self-help, peer-support, medication, and/or a combination of these. Like any addiction, no one size or program fits all. You need to:

  • Talk to your GP to look at any other conditions you may be experiencing such as depression etc.
  • Seek Counselling with a counsellor who specialises in addictions. or enter a treatment program such as one run by the Rutland Center or Aiseiri.
  • You may also like to self-help by entering a 12 step program such as Gamblers Anonymous this will also offer you some peer-support.
  • For Family Members affected by gambling addiction please remember you need help just as much as the gambler. Counselling and a 12 step program is also available to those affected by another’s gambling. You can find out more at Gam-Anon. We offer treatment for those affected by another’s gambling addiction also.

Remember you are not alone You can receive help with this addiction. Please reach out.

For Family and Friends

These are some steps you can take to help yourself and your loved one.

  • You can not change someone else. You can only change yourself.
  • You can not get someone to receive help unless they are willing to do so.
  • You didn’t cause this addiction and any other additional problems associated with it.
  • You can not cure this addiction but you can ask for help for yourself so you can better understand how to deal with your loved one’s behaviour and help yourself.
  • Stop covering for them, allow them to take the responsibility for their addiction.
  • Don’t interrogate the person it won’t help you or them.
  • Instead, you need to start to bring your focus to you and any children involved and get help from your GP, counselling. FLAC (can explain to you your legal liabilities -free advice) and MABS.(financial advice and free service they will also help talk to your creditors)
  • Stop giving or lending money to the person involved.
  • If you are earning money yourself make sure they do not have access to your bank account or any savings.

Accept and learn to live with the fact that compulsive gambling is an illness that cannot be cured, only arrested. This is extremely hard to do especially if you are in the middle of dealing with financial problems as the result of another’s gambling. But by receiving counselling and taking the necessary steps to help yourself in terms of legal and financial advice you can begin to walk along this path. Remeber you are not alone in this struggle, you can receive help.