How to Recognise a Gambling Problem


Whether it’s the flip of a coin, the roll of a dice or the spin of a roulette wheel, gambling involves risking something of value on an outcome that is uncertain. Gambling can involve games of chance – for example, scratchcards and fruit machines – and also activities that require skill, such as poker and horse racing.

Most people gamble responsibly and without problems. But for a minority, the activity can become problematic. This can affect physical and mental health, work or school performance, relationships and finances. In extreme cases, it can lead to debt, homelessness and even suicide.

A key to helping someone with a gambling problem is strengthening their support network. This can be done by contacting friends, relatives or other loved ones, or joining a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step approach to recovery used by Alcoholics Anonymous.

Many people find it hard to recognise when their gambling becomes a problem and may try to hide their activities from family and friends. They might spend money secretly, beg or borrow money from family and friends, or lie about how much they gamble. They may also feel compelled to bet more and more, hoping that they will win big and be able to recover their losses. This is called compulsive gambling. Gambling disorder is now included in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), published by the American Psychiatric Association.