Gambling Disorders

Gambling involves risking something of value on an activity that is primarily a chance in the hope of realizing a profit. It has existed in virtually every society since prerecorded history and is incorporated into many local customs and rites of passage. While most people gamble without problems, a significant subset develops a gambling disorder. This is an addictive, recurrent pattern of gambling behaviour that causes substantial distress and impairment (Shaffer, Hall & Bilt, 1997).

Problem gambling can cause severe strain on family relationships. In addition to financial difficulties, it can lead to a host of other health problems including anxiety, depression and stress. It can also trigger drug use and increase suicide rates. Those close to a person with problem gambling may experience anger, guilt and sadness. They often blame themselves, believing they caused the gambling addiction and that their loved one doesn’t care about them anymore.

In many cases, a person who is addicted to gambling will not recognize their problem until it threatens their financial stability or they are unable to meet their obligations. In these situations, it is important to be supportive and to help them find the treatment options they need.

A non-confrontational approach can be effective to encourage your loved one to take action, such as self-help tools or peer support. For more serious cases, professional gambling treatment is recommended. You can find a specialist by searching online, calling your insurance provider or asking the National Council on Problem Gambling for a referral.