How to Recognize a Gambling Disorder

Gambling is the wagering of something of value (money or goods) on an event that is based primarily on chance with the intent of winning something else of value. While most people associate gambling with casinos and slot machines, it can also be found in many places including bingo halls, sports events and even office pools. Gambling is not without risk, however. While most gamblers are hoping to win more money than they put down, the amount of money a person risks can vary greatly depending on their level of skill and the odds of winning.

For those with gambling problems, the urge to place bets may become out of control. In addition to causing financial harm, gambling can also lead to health issues and social withdrawal. The good news is that help is available, including treatment, support groups and self-help tips.

Psychiatric professionals have defined certain criteria that indicate when someone has a gambling disorder. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders lists pathological gambling among other impulse control disorders such as kleptomania, pyromania and trichotillomania (hair pulling). Symptoms include: a desire to gamble with increasing amounts of money; an inability to stop or reduce gambling; lying about or hiding gambling activity; and spending more time on gambling than on other activities.

While there are no FDA-approved medications for gambling disorders, some may help treat co-occurring conditions such as depression and anxiety. Support from family and friends can be important in overcoming a gambling addiction, but only the individual can decide to change their behavior.

The most common sign that a gambling problem is developing is if a person starts to gamble more than they can afford to lose or if they begin to borrow money in order to fund their habit. In addition, people who have a gambling addiction often become secretive and deceptive, hiding evidence of their gambling or lying about how much they are spending to their friends and family members.

It’s also important to remember that even “social” gambling can be addictive. Playing cards with friends for small sums of money, betting on the outcome of a football game or buying lottery tickets are all forms of gambling that can lead to serious consequences if taken too seriously.

To help prevent a loved one from gambling, it’s a good idea to set aside a separate budget for entertainment and limit access to credit cards or online banking. Also, be sure to stay on top of their mail so that they can’t receive unexpected bills or statements that could entice them to spend more money. Finally, consider taking over their finances if necessary to keep them accountable and prevent them from getting into deeper debt. Lastly, try to get your family member into therapy to discuss the effects of their gambling and ways to deal with it. This will help your family reclaim their lives and regain stability. Then you can begin to rebuild your relationship.