Recognizing the Warning Signs of a Gambling Problem


Gambling involves the staking of something of value, with consciousness of risk and hope of gain, on the outcome of a game or contest. This can include games of chance, such as lotteries and scratch cards, or it can be a skill-based activity like betting on sports events or playing poker.

Most individuals gamble responsibly, enjoying the entertainment and relaxation it provides. A small percentage, however, become excessively involved and incur debts that have negative personal, social, and financial consequences. In addition, some people have a mental health condition that can trigger or be made worse by gambling. These conditions include mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, and substance abuse.

It is important to recognize the warning signs of a problem. If you or someone you know exhibits some of the following symptoms, they may have a gambling problem:

Repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling. Frequently gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed). After losing money in gambling, often returns the next day to try to get even (“chasing” losses). Lies to family members, therapists, or others to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity because of gambling.

While some politicians and the gambling industry advocate that the practice is beneficial to society, it should be viewed as a drug-like activity that, like drugs, must be subjected to impartial testing to ensure safety. This is why the Food and Drug Administration requires that new drugs be rigorously tested before they can be marketed.