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Sudoku for Beginners: How to Improve Your Problem-Solving Skills

Are you a beginner when it comes to solving Sudoku puzzles? Do you find yourself frustrated and unsure of where to start? Fear not, as we have compiled a comprehensive guide on how to improve your problem-solving skills through Sudoku.

Understanding the Basics of Sudoku

Before we dive into the strategies and techniques, let’s first understand the basics of Sudoku. A Sudoku puzzle is a 9×9 grid that is divided into nine smaller 3×3 grids. The objective is to fill in each row, column, and smaller grid with numbers 1-9 without repeating any numbers.

Starting Strategies for Beginners

As a beginner, it can be overwhelming to look at an empty Sudoku grid. But don’t worry. There are simple starting strategies that can help you get started. First, look for any rows or columns that only have one missing number. Fill in that number and move on to the next row or column with only one missing number. Another strategy is looking for any smaller grids with only one missing number and filling in that number.

Advanced Strategies for Beginner/Intermediate Level

Once you’ve mastered the starting strategies, it’s time to move on to more advanced techniques. One technique is called “pencil marking.” This involves writing down all possible numbers in each empty square before making any moves. Then use logic and elimination techniques to cross off impossible numbers until you are left with the correct answer.

Another advanced technique is “hidden pairs.” Look for two squares within a row or column that only have two possible numbers left. If those two possible numbers exist in both squares, then those two squares must contain those specific numbers.

Benefits of Solving Sudoku Puzzles

Not only is solving Sudoku puzzles fun and challenging, but it also has many benefits for your brain health. It helps improve your problem-solving skills, enhances memory and concentration, and reduces the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

In conclusion, Sudoku is a great way to improve your problem-solving skills while also providing entertainment. With these starting and advanced strategies, you’ll be able to solve even the toughest Sudoku puzzles. So grab a pencil and paper and start sharpening those brain muscles.

This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.


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What is gambling addiction and problem gambling?

Gambling addiction signs and symptoms, self-help for gambling problems, how to stop gambling for good, dealing with gambling cravings, gambling addiction treatment, how to help someone stop gambling, do's and don'ts for partners of problem gamblers, gambling addiction and problem gambling.

Are you or a loved one dealing with a gambling problem? Explore the warning signs and symptoms and learn how to stop.

how to solve a gambling problem

Gambling problems can happen to anyone from any walk of life. Your gambling goes from a fun, harmless diversion to an unhealthy obsession with serious consequences. Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots—in a casino, at the track, or online—a gambling problem can strain your relationships, interfere with work, and lead to financial disaster. You may even do things you never thought you would, like running up huge debts or even stealing money to gamble.

Gambling addiction—also known as  pathological gambling, compulsive gambling  or gambling disorder —is an impulse-control disorder. If you're a compulsive gambler, you can't control the impulse to gamble, even when it has negative consequences for you or your loved ones. You'll gamble whether you're up or down, broke or flush, and you'll keep gambling regardless of the consequences—even when you know that the odds are against you or you can't afford to lose.

Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being totally out of control. Problem gambling  is any gambling behavior that disrupts your life. If you're preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you have a gambling problem.

A gambling addiction or problem is often associated with other behavior or mood disorders. Many problem gamblers also suffer with substance abuse issues, unmanaged ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder. To overcome your gambling problems, you'll also need to address these and any other underlying causes as well.

Although it may feel like you’re powerless to stop gambling, there are plenty of things you can do to overcome the problem, repair your relationships and finances, and finally regain control of your life. The first step is to separate the myths from the facts about gambling problems:

Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as a “hidden illness” because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers also typically deny or minimize the problem—even to themselves. However, you may have a gambling problem if you:

Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling. You might gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble, feeling others won't understand or that you will surprise them with a big win.

Have trouble controlling your gambling. Once you start gambling, can you walk away? Or are you compelled to gamble until you've spent your last dollar, upping your bets in a bid to win lost money back?

Gamble even when you don't have the money. You may gamble until you've spent your last dollar, and then move on to money you don't have—money to pay bills, credit cards, or things for your children. You may feel pushed to borrow, sell, or even steal things for gambling money.

Have family and friends worried about you. Denial keeps problem gambling going. If friends and family are worried, listen to them carefully. It's not a sign of weakness to ask for help. Many older gamblers are reluctant to reach out to their adult children if they've gambled away their inheritance, but it's never too late to make changes for the better.

Speak to a Licensed Therapist

BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you to licensed, accredited therapists who can help with depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Take the assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.

The biggest step to overcoming a gambling addiction is realizing that you have a problem. It takes tremendous strength and courage to own up to this, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or broken relationships along the way. Don't despair, and don't try to go it alone. Many others have been in your shoes and have been able to break the habit and rebuild their lives. You can, too.

Learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. Do you gamble when you're lonely or bored? Or after a stressful day at work or following an argument with your spouse? Gambling may be a way to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, unwind, or socialize. But there are healthier and more effective ways of managing your moods and relieving boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don't gamble, taking up new hobbies, or practicing relaxation techniques .

Strengthen your support network. It's tough to battle any addiction without support, so reach out to friends and family. If your support network is limited, there are ways to make new friends without relying on visiting casinos or gambling online. Try reaching out to colleagues at work, joining a sports team or book club, enrolling in an education class, or volunteering for a good cause.

Join a peer support group. Gamblers Anonymous, for example, is a 12-step recovery program patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous. A key part of the program is finding a sponsor, a former gambler who has experience remaining free from addiction and can provide you invaluable guidance and support.

[Read: Support Groups: Types, Benefits, and What to Expect]

Seek help for underlying mood disorders. Depression , stress , substance abuse , or anxiety can both trigger gambling problems and be made worse by compulsive gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, these problems will still remain, so it's important to address them.

For many problem gamblers, it's not quitting gambling that's the biggest challenge, but rather staying in recovery—making a permanent commitment to stay away from gambling. The Internet has made gambling far more accessible and, therefore, harder for recovering addicts to avoid relapse. Online casinos and bookmakers are open all day, every day for anyone with a smartphone or access to a computer. But maintaining recovery from gambling addiction or problem gambling is still possible if you surround yourself with people to whom you're accountable, avoid tempting environments and websites, give up control of your finances (at least at first), and find healthier activities to replace gambling in your life.

Making healthier choices

One way to stop gambling is to remove the elements necessary for gambling to occur in your life and replace them with healthier choices. The four elements needed for gambling to continue are:

A decision: For gambling to happen, you need to make the decision to gamble. If you have an urge: stop what you are doing and call someone, think about the consequences to your actions, tell yourself to stop thinking about gambling, and find something else to do immediately.

Money: Gambling cannot occur without money. Get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your money, have the bank make automatic payments for you, close online betting accounts, and keep only a limited amount of cash on you.

Time: Even online gambling cannot occur if you don't have the time. Schedule enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling. If you're gambling on your smartphone, find other ways to fill the quiet moments during your day.

A game: Without a game or activity to bet on there is no opportunity to gamble. Don't put yourself in tempting environments. Tell gambling establishments you frequent that you have a gambling problem and ask them to restrict you from entering. Remove gambling apps and block gambling sites on your smartphone and computer.

Finding alternatives to gambling

Maintaining recovery from gambling addiction depends a lot on finding alternative behaviors you can substitute for gambling. Some examples include:

Feeling the urge to gamble is normal, but as you build healthier choices and a strong support network, resisting cravings will become easier. When a gambling craving strikes:

Avoid isolation. Call a trusted family member, meet a friend for coffee, or go to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

Postpone gambling. Tell yourself that you'll wait 5 minutes, fifteen minutes, or an hour. As you wait, the urge to gamble may pass or become weak enough to resist.

Visualize what will happen if you give in to the urge to gamble. Think about how you'll feel after all your money is gone and you've disappointed yourself and your family again.

Distract yourself with another activity , such as going to the gym, watching a movie, or practicing a relaxation exercise for gambling cravings.

Coping with lapses

If you aren't able to resist the gambling craving, don't be too hard on yourself or use it as an excuse to give up. Overcoming a gambling addiction is a tough process. You may slip from time to time; the important thing is to learn from your mistakes and continue working towards recovery.

Overcoming a gambling problem is never easy and seeking professional treatment doesn't mean that you're weak in some way or can't handle your problems. But it's important to remember that every gambler is unique so you need a recovery program tailored specifically to your needs and situation. Talk to your doctor or mental health professional about different treatment options, including:

Inpatient or residential treatment and rehab programs . These are aimed at those with severe gambling addiction who are unable to avoid gambling without round-the-clock support.

Treatment for underlying conditions contributing to your compulsive gambling, including substance abuse or mental health problems such as depression, anxiety, OCD, or ADHD. This could include therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. Problem gambling can sometimes be a symptom of bipolar disorder , so your doctor or therapist may need to rule this out before making a diagnosis.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy. CBT for gambling addiction focuses on changing unhealthy gambling behaviors and thoughts, such as rationalizations and false beliefs. It can also teach you how to fight gambling urges and solve financial, work, and relationship problems caused by problem gambling. Therapy can provide you with the tools for coping with your addiction that will last a lifetime.

Family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling. These can help you work through the specific issues that have been created by your problem gambling and lay the foundation for repairing your relationships and finances .

If your loved one has a gambling problem, you likely have many conflicting emotions. You may have spent a lot of time and energy trying to keep your loved one from gambling or having to cover for them. At the same time, you might be furious at your loved one for gambling again and tired of trying to keep up the charade. Your loved one may have borrowed or even stolen money with no way to pay it back. They may have sold family possessions or run up huge debts on joint credit cards.

While compulsive and problem gamblers need the support of their family and friends to help them in their struggle to stop gambling, the decision to quit has to be theirs. As much as you may want to, and as hard as it is seeing the effects, you cannot make someone stop gambling. However, you can encourage them to seek help, support them in their efforts, protect yourself, and take any talk of suicide seriously.

Preventing suicide in problem gamblers

When faced with the consequences of their actions, problem gamblers can suffer a crushing drop in self-esteem. This is one reason why there is a high rate of suicide among compulsive gamblers.

If you suspect your loved one is feeling suicidal, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in the U.S. at 1-800-273-8255 or visit Befrienders Worldwide to find a suicide helpline in your country.

Four tips for family members:

  • Start by helping yourself. You have a right to protect yourself emotionally and financially. Don't blame yourself for the gambler's problems or let his or her addiction dominate your life. Ignoring your own needs can be a recipe for burnout .
  • Don't go it alone. It can feel so overwhelming coping with a loved one's gambling addiction that it may seem easier to rationalize their requests “this one last time.” Or you might feel ashamed, feeling like you are the only one who has problems like this. Reaching out for support will make you realize that many families have struggled with this problem.
  • Set boundaries in managing money. To ensure the gambler stays accountable and to prevent relapse, consider taking over the family finances. However, this does not mean you are responsible for micromanaging the problem gambler's impulses to gamble. Your first responsibilities are to ensure that your own finances and credit are not at risk.
  • Consider how you will handle requests for money. Problem gamblers often become very good at asking for money, either directly or indirectly. They may use pleading, manipulation, or even threats to get it. It takes practice to ensure you are not enabling your loved one's gambling addiction.
  • Talk to your partner about their problem gambling and its consequences when you’re calm and not stressed or angry.
  • Look for support. Self-help groups for families of problem gamblers, such as Gam-Anon, for example, can introduce you to people who’ve faced the same obstacles.
  • Explain to your partner that you’re seeking help because of how their gambling affects you and the family.
  • Talk to your children about your partner’s problem gambling.
  • Take over management of your family finances, carefully monitoring bank and credit card statements.
  • Encourage and support your loved one during treatment of their gambling problem, even though it may be a long process peppered with setbacks.
  • Lose your temper, preach, lecture, or issue threats and ultimatums that you’re unable to follow through on.
  • Overlook your partner’s positive qualities.
  • Prevent your partner from participating in family life and activities.
  • Expect your partner’s recovery from problem gambling to be smooth or easy. Even when their gambling stops, other underlying problems may surface.
  • Bail your partner out of debt or enable their gambling in any way.
  • Cover-up or deny your partner’s problem to yourself or others.

Hotlines and support groups

The National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline  offers a confidential, 24-hour helpline for problem gamblers or their family members at 1-800-522-4700.

Gamcare  offers support and a helpline at 0808 8020 133.

Gambling Help Online  offers a 24-hour helpline at 1800 858 858.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health  offers resources and a helpline at 1-866-531-2600.

Gamblers Anonymous  offers 12-step support meetings for people with a gambling problem, while  Gam-Anon  offers support for the problem gambler's family members.

More Information

  • Freedom from Problem Gambling - Self-help workbook for compulsive gamblers, with tips on how to avoid relapse and fight gambling urges. (UCLA Gambling Studies Program)
  • Problem Gamblers and their Finances - Guide for treatment professionals on how to help a problem gambler cope with financial problems. (National Endowment for Financial Education)
  • Personal Financial Strategies for the Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers - How to deal with financial issues due to a loved one’s gambling. (National Council on Problem Gambling)
  • Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. (2013). In Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders . American Psychiatric Association. Link
  • Yau, Y. H. C., & Potenza, M. N. (2015). Gambling Disorder and Other Behavioral Addictions: Recognition and Treatment. Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 23(2), 134–146. Link
  • Ford, M., & Håkansson, A. (2020). Problem gambling, associations with comorbid health conditions, substance use, and behavioural addictions: Opportunities for pathways to treatment. PLOS ONE, 15(1), e0227644. Link
  • Ioannidis, K., Hook, R., Wickham, K., Grant, J. E., & Chamberlain, S. R. (2019). Impulsivity in Gambling Disorder and problem gambling: A meta-analysis. Neuropsychopharmacology, 44(8), 1354–1361. Link
  • Wardle, H., & McManus, S. (2021). Suicidality and gambling among young adults in Great Britain: Results from a cross-sectional online survey. The Lancet. Public Health, 6(1), e39–e49. Link

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How to stop gambling

Gambling addiction can significantly impact a person’s life, from their health and finances to their relationships. In the past, gambling only occurred in casinos. Today, it takes many forms, with people easily betting and gaming online. While compulsive gambling can be challenging to manage, you can break the cycle. Keep reading to learn how to deal with gambling and seek support for yourself or someone you know.

Practical Ways to Stop Gambling

Gambling addiction can affect everyone from teenagers to adults. Approximately 6 million people in the U.S. struggle with it. This disorder’s leading characteristic is an overpowering urge to gamble, no matter the consequences. Many problem gamblers experience financial difficulties, failed relationships and poor health outcomes.

While addiction is a complex condition, there are many treatment options to help you overcome it and regain control of your life. Additionally, you can learn how to manage gambling on your own with these tips. 

1. Understand the Problem

Accepting that you are struggling with a gambling addiction is the first step in managing it. If you recognize the signs and symptoms, you can work on modifying the behavior and start feeling better.

The American Psychiatric Association lists the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction as follows: 

  • Feeling a thrill when gambling
  • Taking more risks
  • Increased craving for gambling
  • Reliving and romanticizing gambling experiences
  • Using gambling to escape negative emotions
  • Feeling guilty or remorseful after gambling
  • Needing financial support
  • Failed past attempts to stop gambling

There are also a few social problems associated with gambling, including lying about your activities or borrowing or stealing money to support your habit. As soon as you recognize these signs, you should learn how to stop gambling and regain control of your life. Additionally, you might seek an assessment from a professional who can help you address the issue.

Pinpoint Your Triggers

2. Pinpoint Your Triggers

To conquer your gambling addiction, you’ll need to learn your triggers. In other words, you must understand the reasons behind your pathological gambling and the outside stressors that might be contributing to it. Triggers can be any situations, thoughts, feelings or behaviors that make you want to gamble.

For instance, being around friends with the same habits triggers many problem gamblers. Additionally, you might be more likely to gamble when you are under the influence, since drinking can lower your inhibitions and increase risk-taking behaviors. Those with gambling addiction are at an increased risk of developing a substance use disorder, which can arise from the same stressors . 

To identify your triggers, you might start by documenting them in a journal. You can include the type of gambling, time spent and the amount of money you lost. Next, write down the thoughts, feelings and situations that occurred before and during the gambling session to understand what caused the craving. 

3. Identify Thoughts and Feelings

The urge to gamble can be intense, and while you’re experiencing it, you might feel like it will last forever. However, these feelings will pass. Paying attention to your emotional wellness can help you regain control over them and build resilience against pathological gambling. 

If you have increased cravings to gamble, take a second to record the following.

  • Thoughts: You might get preoccupied with daydreams of gambling and reliving past moments. 
  • Feelings: Perhaps you’re feeling bored or stressed about something, leading to cravings. 
  • Coping techniques: There are specific ways you can learn how to cope with gambling, such as postponing the activity or distracting yourself with a hobby. 

Do negative feelings like depression or stress cause your gambling? In this case, an excellent coping mechanism might be to attend therapy or discuss your emotions with a trusted friend or family member. Do you look for excitement and find yourself gambling to combat boredom? Look for new hobbies to fulfill that need for a thrill. You can use several effective coping techniques to stop your gambling addiction. 

4. Avoid High-Risk Situations 

Steering clear of high-risk situations is essential when trying to stop your gambling addiction. It’s also helpful to prevent isolation. Instead of spending hours playing online poker, you might call family members or friends to meet for coffee. Or, you could distract yourself with an activity like watching a movie, practicing mindfulness exercises like deep breathing or going to the gym. 

It can be challenging to avoid cravings if you find yourself near a casino or around triggers that might cause you to gamble. Try the following techniques to prevent high-risk situations: 

  • Stay away from casinos and online gambling sites.
  • Cancel your credit cards.
  • Don’t take out loans.
  • Never carry large amounts of cash with you.
  • Delete sportsbook apps from your smartphone and other devices.
  • Do not socialize in venues where gaming takes place.
  • Avoid the people, places and activities you associate with gambling.

Avoiding your triggers can help prevent any thoughts or emotions from arising that encourage gambling. If your usual way to and from work goes past a casino, take an alternate route. Change the channel if watching sports makes you want to bet. Additionally, you can plan by leaving credit cards and nonessential cash at home and limiting the total amount of money you carry when you leave the house. 

Challenge Your Beliefs

5. Challenge Your Beliefs

It also helps to challenge negative thinking habits, such as the illusion of control, irrational beliefs and the gambler’s fallacy. These unhealthy thought patterns can increase compulsive gambling, but you can reduce them by identifying and altering them.

  • Gambler’s fallacy: The gambler’s fallacy is when you believe a random incident is less likely to occur due to a prior event. For instance, a person might think their chances of losing a game are lower if they just lost, and that their next attempt will be a winner. However, the odds are identical.
  • Superstitious thinking: Superstitious beliefs are also common among those who gamble . You might think random occurrences have meaning. For example, if you’re betting in keno, you might pick a number you believe is lucky and place your money on that. Remind yourself that superstitious thinking arises from sheer coincidence, and luck has nothing to do with it.
  • The illusion of control: This false thought pattern is typical in problem gamblers. It is the belief that you can control the outcome of any game. To prevent this thought, remind yourself that no technique or trick can change what happens, whether you’re gambling online, playing cards, betting on a sports game or sitting at a slot machine. Each bet or decision is random, and the results are out of your control. 

You can prevent risk-taking behaviors with logic and reason. When you gamble, think about the amount of money you’ll potentially lose if you make a bet. Challenging fallacies, the illusion of control and superstitions can help you stop a gambling problem.

6. Delay the Decision

Delaying the decision to gamble allows time for cravings to pass so you can be more in control.

Try the following next time you have the urge to gamble:

  • Relax and focus on staying calm.
  • Take deep breaths to slow down and quiet your thoughts.
  • Distract yourself with an activity like a warm bath or reading a book.

Tell yourself that you’ll wait at least an hour, allowing the desire to dissipate. Visualize what could happen if you gave in to the cravings, such as how regretful or anxious you’d feel if you lost your family’s grocery money. 

7. Recognize the Benefits of Stopping

A gambling disorder can lead to several adverse outcomes, from draining your finances to destroying close relationships. While shame and guilt can be dangerous in recovery, a small amount of reflection can motivate you to get better.

When you think about how gambling has affected your past, you can make strides to avoid it in the future. You might consider your financial hardships, the loved ones you’ve harmed and the strain gambling has on your physical and mental health. Calculate the money and time you’ve spent gambling and think about better ways you could spend those.

At the same time, consider all the positives of overcoming your gambling disorder. Imagine the better ways you could spend your money and how finding a more practical outlet for your stressors can improve your mental health. Set goals you can achieve to stop gambling and reasons behind them, such as making your family proud, having more money to put toward a vacation or being able to pay bills. 

Try not to dwell too much on the past — instead, let it motivate you to change and grow. Be kind and patient with yourself as you work to overcome a gambling disorder. 

Find Healthy Alternatives

8. Find Healthy Alternatives

Since gambling can change your brain’s reward system, you might find it challenging to occupy your mind after stopping. However, you can replace problem gambling with equally stimulating alternatives. You might rekindle an old hobby or try something completely new. 

Consider incorporating these activities into your daily routine.

  • Mindfulness: Meditation, yoga and deep breathing exercises can all help you slow down and shift your thoughts to the present . You can catch any unhealthy thought patterns and release the stress that can lead to gambling. 
  • Art therapy: You might make music, draw or paint, crochet or participate in another creative endeavor — anything that will get your mind off urges and toward something rewarding is essential. Studies show that therapeutic art can boost mental health , which will help you as you work toward overcoming problem gambling.
  • Exercise: Numerous studies have reported exercise’s physical and mental health benefits. Staying active is especially vital when dealing with substance use disorder or gambling addiction. You might go on a daily walk, lift weights or ride your bike — any physical activity you enjoy that can get your mind off gambling should do the trick. 
  • Volunteering: Studies show that volunteering can make us happier . Reducing stress and depression triggers is essential to overcoming addiction. You can volunteer at a hospital or your local animal shelter to stop your gambling addiction. 

Set new goals and tasks for yourself each day. As you focus on these activities, you can better cope with gambling urges as they arise. When you replace risky gambling behaviors with more positive ones, you can change your maladaptive coping mechanisms for good.

9. Practice Gratitude 

You can work to release any negative thoughts with an attitude of gratitude. Keep track of your goals and progress as you manage your gambling addiction. List everything you’re grateful for to increase positivity and shift away from unhealthy behaviors.

Believe in yourself and the ability to change. You might journal about your achievements, strengths and attributes. Let yourself feel optimistic about your future, perhaps for the first time in years. Write a daily gratitude list to stay aware of how much better your life is without gambling. The goal is to improve your self-esteem and help prevent relapse. 

10. Seek Social Support

Social support is a vital component of compulsive gambling recovery . You can discuss your addiction with trusted friends or family members to keep them informed. They might be able to help you avoid gambling triggers and let you discuss stress or anxiety that could cause the addiction.

You might also join a support group , such as Gamblers Anonymous. Here, you can share your story in a nonjudgmental setting with those who might have similar experiences. In support groups, you’ll find connections you may not have even realized you needed. 

How to Get Help for Gambling Addiction In Illinois

While a gambling disorder can result in numerous challenges, you can’t overcome it with willpower and self-help alone. Professional treatment can help you get back on the right track with options like these.

  • Therapy: At Gateway Foundation, we offer various evidence-based treatments, including cognitive behavioral therapy and dialectical behavioral therapy . Therapy sessions can help you change how you think and feel about gambling and ways to overcome triggers. 
  • Medications: Mental health professionals can provide you with a dual diagnosis of co-occurring disorders like depression and gambling addiction. From there, you can receive prescribed medicines that ease any symptoms, such as antidepressants or mood stabilizers. 
  • Support groups: Many people find speaking to others in similar situations beneficial. Discussing your goals and setbacks and providing advice to others in support groups can encourage you in recovery.

Seeking professional gambling addiction can help you overcome the cycle and refine skills you’re already using. At Gateway Foundation, we offer outpatient care services, which can be more affordable and flexible than inpatient care. You can attend support groups and therapy sessions at the times that work best for you, allowing you to be with friends and family while in recovery. 

Get Gambling Addiction Treatment at Gateway Foundation

Get Gambling Addiction Treatment at Gateway Foundation

If you or someone you know needs help for a gambling problem, contact us today. Gateway Foundation specializes in treating addiction, including compulsive gambling. Our team of experts will work with you to identify why you use gaming to cope and replace those self-destructive urges with healthier tools. 

We offer various treatments to treat gambling addiction and its underlying causes. Our highly trained team provides individualized care in a compassionate setting, giving our clients a better chance of lasting success

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Gateway Foundation

Gateway Foundation is a recognized leader in evidence-based addiction treatment proven to get results. Our experts in Addiction Medicine—including highly educated clinical and medical professionals and expert psychiatrists and nurses—deliver care that never stops. For over 50 years, Gateway Foundation has been helping individuals and their families recover from addictions and behavioral health issues and is the only provider that covers the entire state of Illinois with 16 facilities from the Wisconsin Border to the Kentucky Border. Gateway has specific programs focusing on substance use disorders, trauma, depression, anxiety, and other co-occurring issues. We’re licensed by the state of Illinois and accredited by the Joint Commission. We are in-network with all the major commercial insurance plans. Gateway Foundation: Addiction medicine, saving lives.

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Gambling - how to regain control

Actions for this page.

  • Talk about your gambling with somebody you trust who won’t judge you. This could be a family member, friend or professional counsellor.
  • Reduce financial risk factors such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans and carrying large amounts of money.
  • Avoid using gambling venues to socialise and don’t use gambling as an escape.
  • Find an alternative recreational activity or hobby to fill the gap left when you stop gambling.

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Strategies for change, self-exclusion, gambler's help, talk about lying, relax and look after yourself, prepare for a lapse, what to do if you feel like gambling, where to get help.

If your gambling is causing harm, there are things you can do to stop it being an issue. You can take steps to change your life.

Suggestions include:

  • Set goals – setting short-term and long-term goals may help you to stay focused and clear about cutting down or giving up gambling.
  • Avoid high-risk situations – such as the use of credit cards, taking out loans, carrying large amounts of money with you, using gaming venues for socialising, or gambling as a reaction to emotions. These behaviours will weaken your resolve to control or stop your gambling.
  • Talk about it – talking about gambling with somebody you trust and someone who won't judge you can ease the pain of bottling it up. It can also reduce the stress that can cause you to continue to gamble.
  • Find alternatives to gambling – There are two major risk factors why people continue to gamble, social isolation and leisure substitution. When people stop gambling they lack motivation to find other activities that are exciting and fun and they lost family and friends who could support them in engaging in such activities.

Self-exclusion is a free program where you ban yourself from gambling venues or online gambling.

You can ban yourself from venues like casinos, clubs, pubs or TABs, or from placing a bet on gambling websites. By law, Australian gambling providers must give customers the option to self-exclude from their venue or products.

Every year Gambler’s Help assists thousands of Victorians to successfully take control of their gambling. Gambler’s Help supports people experiencing gambling harm as well as helping family and friends close to them. All Gambler's Help services are free and confidential.

Call now for support, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week: Tel: 1800 858 858 .

When people lie about gambling and debts, they may sometimes try to gamble their way out of debt, so they won't have to ‘come clean'. This usually leads them further into debt.

Coming clean about gambling with a trusted person can relieve pressure and provide the space to prepare a more thoughtful plan for recovery.

Giving up when you’ve spent hours each week gambling can make you feel tense and irritable. You may feel even worse when you go into the places where you gambled, or if you pass a TAB or the casino on your way to work.

Learning how to relax, getting plenty of rest and eating properly can help you stick to your goal of reducing or giving up gambling. A counsellor may be able to help you with your strategies, which may include:

  • muscular relaxation training
  • meditation.

A lapse occurs when you gamble again after deciding to stop. You do not have to continue to gamble if this happens to you. You can use this to learn more about what triggers your gambling. Examine what worked and what didn't work with your plan.

You can kick the habit. However, you must be fair to yourself. It can be hard to stop gambling or keep it under control.

You can often predict when gambling will reoccur. You are more likely to lose control when you have bad times in other parts of your life that make you feel sad, anxious, angry or depressed.

When you feel this way, it's challenging to stick to your plans, as you may feel an urge to go back to the old habit.

When you feel like you might gamble again, or if you do gamble again, helpful strategies include:

  • Talking to your support person.
  • Writing your feelings and actions in your gambling diary. If you gambled, look at what happened and see if you can spot ways of stopping it next time. Look for the positives too. Did cash limits help? Did you find it easier to talk about it instead of lying about it? These are big steps forward. Next time it will be easier to cope.
  • Control your cash. See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘ Gambling – financial issues ’ for more information.
  • Fill in the gap that gambling has left with new things to do.
  • Practise your relaxation.
  • Gambler’s Help External Link Tel. 1800 858 858 24-hour telephone counselling service
  • Gambler’s Help Youthline External Link Tel. 1800 262 376 24-hour telephone counselling service for people under 25.
  • Your GP (doctor) or other health professional
  • Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation External Link
  • Gambling Help Online External Link - counselling and information services including a peer support program External Link .
  • Gambler’s Help External Link Tel. 1800 858 858 , TTY 1800 777 706 – 24-hour telephone counselling service
  • Gamblers Anonymous External Link Tel. (03) 9696 6108 – support group for people with a gambling problem
  • Gamble Aware External Link – information about the odds of winning, how gambling works, and when to stop
  • Lifeline External Link Tel. 13 11 14
  • SuicideLine External Link Victoria Tel. 1300 651 251

This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by:

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More information, related information.

  • Gambling - providing support
  • Gambling - advice for family and friends
  • Gambling - do you have a problem?
  • Gambling - financial issues

From other websites

  • External Link Responsible Gambling - Reducing harm from gambling
  • External Link Gambling Help Online.

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Many people can enjoy gambling without it becoming a problem, but over time, some people develop a gambling addiction that can ruin their lives. Compulsive gambling is a progressive illness, so even if you’ve gambled before and been okay, a problem could develop later on. The urge to gamble can be overwhelming, leading someone to lie, steal, blow through their savings and miss out on the rest of their lives. Several signs indicate when normal enjoyment of gambling transitions into a problem. The earlier the process is identified, the better the chances for a successful recovery. Although compulsive gambling is hard to overcome, many people are able to manage their illness with professional help.

Understanding a Gambling Compulsion

A gambling compulsion can begin the first time someone places a bet, or it could gradually progress into an addiction over time. According to the Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, how long it takes someone to develop a problem varies by the individual, though compulsions tend develop more quickly in people who engage in continuous forms of gambling, such as online betting or using slot machines. Some gamblers find themselves showing symptoms of a compulsion in less than a year when doing this type of gambling. People who bet on horse races or play card games that allow for natural breaks in play might not develop a gambling problem until they’ve been gambling for a lot longer.

How to Diagnose Compulsive Gambling

Experts don’t know specifically what leads to compulsive gambling. Many factors could contribute to the problem, such as hereditary or environmental factors. Diagnosing a gambling problem involves looking for signs someone is out of control. Possible signs of a gambling problem include:

  • Spending more money on gambling than one can afford
  • Difficulties in personal relationships caused by gambling
  • Gambling getting in the way of work
  • An inability to cut back or stop gambling
  • Spending more time gambling than before
  • Attempting to hide gambling from friends or medical professionals
  • Stealing or committing fraud to support gambling
  • Asking for loans to cover gambling debts

How to Recognize an Addictive Gambler

Although compulsive gamblers often share the trait of low self-esteem, two main types of compulsive gamblers are common: escape gamblers and actions gamblers. Recognizing a compulsive gambler is easier if you know the characteristics of each type. An action gambler is someone who likes to play games involving skill and beating the odds. Poker is an example of an action game. These types of gamblers are often extroverted, self-confident and even arrogant. An escape gambler views gambling as a form of escapism, seeing it as a distraction from real life. These gamblers can appear withdrawn, unhappy or introverted.

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According to the Mayo Clinic, signs indicate compulsive gamblers approach gambling as a means to escape problems or feelings, such as depression , guilt or helplessness. Some other ways to recognize a compulsive gambler include looking for signs of:

  • A preoccupation with gambling
  • Gradually taking more risks
  • Reliving memories of gambling
  • Guilt or remorse following gambling
  • Taking time off work to gamble

Steps You Can Take to Help Someone With a Gambling Problem

If you suspect someone you know has a gambling problem, ways to help are available; however, the most important thing you can do is to encourage them to get help from a professional. We can assist you in finding help for a loved if you call . It’s important to remember that even though a person’s gambling has affected you to the point where you’re ready for them to change, they might not be ready yet. You can offer support and seek professional help with how to proceed, but you can’t make someone ready to change.

Talking to Someone With Gambling Problems

Although it can be challenging to confront someone about a gambling problem, the best thing you can do is to start by asking someone if the problem exists, according to the Victoria State Government. Although you might not get a straight answer and you won’t know how someone will react, if you approach someone in a non-confrontational way, you might get some useful information.

When talking to someone with a gambling problem, remember that if you want someone to be honest with you, be honest yourself. Letting someone know you suspect a problem and are worried, in a supportive and concerned manner, is more likely to work than being deceptive, judgmental or aggressive. Talk about how you’re feeling and what you’ve observed as these things are less likely to trigger an argument. Some people with gambling problems will be relieved and grateful the subject was broached, as they want to talk about it. Other people might not want to talk because they’re ashamed and could become defensive. If a person lies about having a problem, you can still say you care about your loved one and give them information on where to get help.

If a discussion about gambling becomes circular or confrontational, take a break and pick up the subject later. Always keep the lines of communication open.

Adolescents and Teens

Adolescents and teens are at risk for developing a gambling problem. Compulsive gambling generally starts when someone is in their late teens. Occasionally, people even become addicted the first time they gamble. Other times, the problem starts in the teen years and progresses as people’s lives become more stressful. Teens can gamble casually, but times of stress or depression might trigger overwhelming gambling urges.

Learning to Cope With a Gambling Addiction

Learning to cope with a gambling addiction can be challenging because at one time gambling might not have been an addiction for you. Gambling is also everywhere, readily available to suck you back in. Having a sponsor or designated person to help you resist the desire to gamble again might be particularly useful. Some things you can tell yourself to avoid a relapse and stay focused on recovery include:

  • Even one bet can trigger a relapse
  • It’s okay to ask for help
  • Turn thoughts to the goal of not gambling
  • Avoid people and situations that encourage betting

You can make it easier on yourself to live with a gambling addiction if you identify your gambling triggers and stay away from them. Ongoing therapy helps manage the condition.

How to Treat Gambling

Three main ways exist to treat gambling problems, including psychotherapy, medication and support groups. Cognitive behavioral therapy and behavior therapy help a person identify thought patterns that lead to and support a gambling problem, and replace them with healthier beliefs.

Some gamblers respond well to antidepressants, narcotic antagonists and mood stabilizer medications. Oftentimes, a person with a gambling addiction also suffers from bipolar disorder , depression, ADHD or obsessive-compulsive disorder , so medication or therapy to treat those conditions can alleviate gambling addiction. Gamblers Anonymous and other self-help groups help many people as well.

Deciding Between Gambling Addiction Solutions

The type of treatment that works for one person might be vastly different than what’s effective for someone else. Seeking an evaluation from a professional and discussing treatment options is the best way to choose the right gambling addiction solutions for you.

Where to Find Gambling Addiction Treatment for a Friend or Family Member

The sooner a person receives treatment for a gambling addiction, the easier it is to stop the progression of the illness. The problem is where to find gambling addiction treatment. Facilities offering inpatient and outpatient care might not be available in all areas, but by calling , we can help you find the closest available treatment resources. Friends and family members can also receive therapy to help them cope with the stress of having someone they know deal with a gambling addiction. A gambling addiction expert or facility can recommend support for loved ones.

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The 10 most successful ways of overcoming gambling urges

Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP

Clinicians differ in how gambling addiction is defined. Generally speaking, however, it can be viewed as an activity whereby an individual is unable to resist impulses to gamble, thus leading to serious adverse personal or social consequences.


Stopping problem gambling can be extremely difficult but, once stopped, the ongoing task is to stay stopped. Ex-problem gamblers find it extremely difficult to engage in recreational gambling again.

For most problem gamblers, if not all, an abstinence-based approach to recovery is needed in order to enjoy a full and wholesome life. In order to maintain abstinence, it is crucial that an effective programme of recovery is in place to prevent relapse.

10 tips to stop gambling addiction

1. plan ahead to avoid boredom.

Ex-gamblers, so used to the highs and lows of active addiction, typically struggle with periods of boredom in their lives. Try to plan your days so that you aren’t tempted to fill empty space by gambling. Research(1) seems to back this up when findings showed that problem gamblers have a low threshold for boredom. When faced with an uninspiring task they will invariably avoid it or not complete it.

2. Live your life one day at a time

This means trying to forget about what happened yesterday, including your gambling losses. A desire to get even with the bookmakers or casinos will restrict your ability to focus on your recovery issues. Taking your life one day at a time also means not worrying about what tomorrow might hold for you in your life. Keep the focus on what you can do today that will help your ongoing recovery from addiction .

3. Do something completely different

Your brain got used to working in a certain way when gambling, but it still needs to be constantly stimulated now that you have stopped. So try to set yourself new goals and tasks each day. When you are focused on problem-solving, you will be better able to cope with gambling urges when they come.

4. Rekindle an old hobby

Invariably, gamblers will lose interest in hobbies as they become more and more addicted to their gambling. After you have stopped, it is important to rekindle old hobbies. This will not only boost your self-esteem but will also provide a regular reminder of your new way of life.

Like most behavioural addictions, it is important to find a more healthy activity to replace negative addiction. This will keep you focused on the benefits of your new way of life rather than on what you are missing out on.

5. Be especially vigilant leading up to special events

Research(2) has indicated that gamblers tend to have difficulties with the management of impulse control and with delaying gratification. Recognise the need to bolster your resolve when special events are approaching.

If you had been a sports gambler, for example, then special events such as football World Cups and European Championships, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot or the Ryder Cup can be particularly challenging. Perhaps you need to avoid the increased hype within the media surrounding these events, especially when bookmaking firms offer special offers.

6. Find ways that help you cope better with stress

Stress is the barometer of how we manage our emotions and can be a major contributing factor in relapse from gambling recovery. It is vital to find new, healthy ways to cope with stress, whether that is physical exercise, meditation, hypnotherapy or talking to a trusted friend. The risks are that the temptation to gamble will become stronger and stronger as you become more stressed.  

7. Remind yourself that to gamble is to lose

It is important to remind yourself that in the absence of discipline you will almost certainly lose your money, regardless of your betting strategy. This is the fundamental fact of problem gambling.

Your gambling urges might appear as seductive temptations when you are undergoing financial worries, especially as most forms of gambling offer the potential of immediate high reward. Reminding yourself that you can’t stop once you start can help you to deal with any urges to gamble.

8. Identify your self-sabotage triggers

Your clean time is precious. See any urge to gamble as a temporary menace and be prepared for them to emerge before special occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or exam time.

9. Visualise your betting firm or casino with a negative slogan

Associate your betting platform with a negative connotation and imagine a nasty image when you think of the operator's logo. This way you can seek to embed the negative bias of gambling in your subconscious. It will also help you to remember exactly how low and desperate you felt when you stopped.

10. Write a daily gratitude list

Staying aware of how better your life is without gambling is vital in any relapse prevention strategy. If this conforms with any spiritual practice then all the better. When we have a grateful attitude, we are less likely to be searching for excitement. Try it, it really works.

Addictions can be seen as a failure to bond. A problem gambler has bonded with the activity of gambling because they couldn't bond as fully with anything else. It might follow, therefore, that the opposite of addiction is not clean time per se, but the human connection. That’s one reason why 12-step meetings, such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA) , can help with the initial phase of acquiring abstinence.

Counselling to stop gambling

Counselling and talking therapy can help you to heal any old emotional wounds that are getting in your way. The process of building trust and rapport with a therapist can help to identify specific personal vulnerabilities to relapse, hidden triggers and to devise a plan for the successful maintenance of your recovery.

If you'd like to find out more about how counselling can support you to sustain a life free from gambling, get in touch .

(1) A public mental health issue: Risk-taking behaviour and compulsive gambling. Peck, Cecil P. American Psychologist, Vol 41(4), Apr 1986, 461-465.

(2) Attributional style in pathological gamblers in treatment. McCormick R.A. & Taber J.I Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 1988, 97, 368-370.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team .


Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited clinical psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the Psychodynamic, CBT, Humanist, Existential and Transpersonal schools.


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Help for problems with gambling

Gambling can harm many areas of your life. This can include problems with your:

  • relationships
  • physical and mental health

If you're not sure if gambling is causing problems for you

Answer these questions:

  • Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?
  • Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?
  • Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?
  • Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?
  • Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?
  • Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?
  • Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a problem with gambling (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?
  • Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?
  • Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?

Score 0 for each time you answer "never" Score 1 for each time you answer "sometimes" Score 2 for each time you answer "most of the time" Score 3 for each time you answer "almost always"

If your total score is 8 or higher, you or those closest to you, are likely to be experiencing gambling-related harms.

If your total score is between 1 and 7, gambling might still be having a negative impact on your life.

There is support and treatment available if you need it.

How to get help for gambling-related harms

Treatment and support groups are available if gambling is causing problems for you.

If you need urgent help for your mental health

If gambling is seriously affecting your mental health and you need help urgently find out where to get urgent help for your mental health .

  • NHS gambling treatment clinics

You can go to a specialist gambling treatment clinic in England.

They have a team of psychiatrists and psychologists who can:

  • treat you if gambling is causing you problems
  • support you with your recovery
  • provide therapy for any complex health needs you have related to gambling
  • support your family or friends if they need help

You can self-refer to a gambling clinic near you. Or you can ask a GP for information on services in your area.

Find out more about what’s offered and how to self-refer at:

  • NHS London Gambling Service and The National Centre for Children and Young People’s Behavioural addictions website
  • NHS Northern Gambling Service website
  • NHS Southern Gambling Service website
  • NHS West Midlands Gambling Harms Clinic website
  • NHS East Midlands Gambling Harms Clinic website
  • NHS East of England Gambling website

Charities and support groups

There are also charities and support groups that offer free, confidential support to people who are gambling, and their friends and family.

  • The National Gambling Helpline (run by GamCare ) – call 0808 8020 133 for free 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for free information, support and counselling
  • GambleAware – a national gambling support network service
  • GamLearn – the Gambling Lived Experience and Recovery Network service
  • Gamblers Anonymous – a local support group service that uses the 12-step approach to recovery
  • Citizens Advice Bureau – a charity that can advise you on a range of issues, including finances

Things you can do to help with gambling-related harms

You're advised to get support if you're experiencing gambling-related harms. But there are other things you can also do to help.

  • sign up for GamStop – this stops you being able to use gambling websites and apps for 6 months, 1 year or 5 years
  • install Gamban – this blocks access to gambling websites and apps on your devices
  • ask your bank to block any money going to gambling websites and apps
  • pay important bills, such as your mortgage, on payday before you gamble – you can set up direct debits or standing orders for this
  • deal with your debts rather than ignoring them – visit the National Debtline for help
  • spend more time with family and friends who do not gamble
  • talk to someone you trust about what is happening
  • do not view gambling as a way to make money
  • do not take credit cards with you when you go gambling

If you're affected by someone's gambling

If another person's gambling is affecting you, support is available from:

  • GamAnon : local support groups
  • GamFam : a lived experience support network
  • Six to Ten project : support and information
  • Gambling with Lives : support for people bereaved by gambling-related suicide

Real stories of people recovery from gambling harm

You can watch a series of real-life stories of people affected by gambling on the NHS Northern Gambling Service website

More information

The Royal College of Psychiatrists website has more advice if your gambling is causing problems

Page last reviewed: 8 January 2021 Next review due: 8 January 2024

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Canada Safety Council

Gambling Addiction

Home & Community Safety

People with gambling problems may cover up or lie when asked where they have been, or where money has gone. This makes problem gambling hard to identify. Families often know something is wrong — but not what is wrong.

You could be living or working with a compulsive gambler and not know it until the problems are out of control. It’s crucial to recognize the signs and know how to get help.

“People who gamble excessively fear their loved ones will find them out,” says Robert Murray, Manager of CAMH’s Problem Gambling Project. “This drives them deeper into hiding and further into debt. They hope against hope a big win will end their problems.”

CAMH has devised a simple checklist for the public to take a look at to help determine whether a family member or colleague has a gambling problem. The more clues you see, the more likely that gambling is a problem needing to be addressed:

  • Is your family member or colleague often late for work or school?
  • Are they gone for long unexplained periods?
  • Do they neglect responsibilities, and make excuses?
  • Have they withdrawn from family and friends?
  • Do they have mood swings and sudden outbursts of anger?
  • Is there less money available, even though income has not changed?
  • Is money missing from the house or from bank accounts?
  • Are they secretive and bad tempered about money?
  • Do they have money conflicts with others?
  • Do they talk about gambling all the time?
  • Do they lie about gambling?

Counseling is the first step to regaining control of the problems that gambling has caused, and is the best way to find a long-term solution. Free treatment, including counseling, is available to anyone affected by gambling, including family members. A list of gambling help lines across Canada is available at:  www.ccsa.ca  ; search for “gambling help lines.”

Problem Gambling Helplines in Canada

Confidential and open 24 hours a day.

Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission Helpline 1-866-332-2322

British Columbia ­ Problem Gambling Information and Referral Service 1-888-795-6111

Manitoba Gambling Helpline 1-800-463-1554

New Brunswick Problem Gamblers Hotline 1-800-461-1234

Newfoundland and Labrador Helpline 1-888-899-4357

Nova Scotia Toll-Free Gambling Helpline 1-888-347-8888

Nunavut Kamatsiaqtut Helpline


Ontario Problem Gambling Helpline 1-888-230-3505

Prince Edward Island Gambling Addiction Treatment Program 1-888-299-8399

Québec – Gambling Help and Referral (514) 527-0140 Montreal and surrounding area 1-800-461-0140 and 1-866-767-5389 throughout province

Saskatchewan Problem Gambling Helpline 1-800-306-6789

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Helpful programs and pages like this one are made possible by donations from people like you.

Help us help everyone and make an online donation now!

Compulsive gambling

On this page, risk factors, complications.

Compulsive gambling, also called gambling disorder, is the uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the toll it takes on your life. Gambling means that you're willing to risk something you value in the hope of getting something of even greater value.

Gambling can stimulate the brain's reward system much like drugs or alcohol can, leading to addiction. If you have a problem with compulsive gambling, you may continually chase bets that lead to losses, use up savings and create debt. You may hide your behavior and even turn to theft or fraud to support your addiction.

Compulsive gambling is a serious condition that can destroy lives. Although treating compulsive gambling can be challenging, many people who struggle with compulsive gambling have found help through professional treatment.

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Signs and symptoms of compulsive gambling (gambling disorder) can include:

  • Being preoccupied with gambling, such as constantly planning gambling activities and how to get more gambling money
  • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
  • Trying to control, cut back or stop gambling, without success
  • Feeling restless or irritable when you try to cut down on gambling
  • Gambling to escape problems or relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
  • Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
  • Lying to family members or others to hide the extent of your gambling
  • Risking or losing important relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities because of gambling
  • Asking others to bail you out of financial trouble because you gambled money away

Most casual gamblers stop when losing or set a limit on how much they're willing to lose. But people with a compulsive gambling problem are compelled to keep playing to recover their money — a pattern that becomes increasingly destructive over time. Some people may turn to theft or fraud to get gambling money.

Some people with a compulsive gambling problem may have periods of remission — a length of time where they gamble less or not at all. But without treatment, the remission usually isn't permanent.

When to see a doctor or mental health professional

Have family members, friends or co-workers expressed concern about your gambling? If so, listen to their worries. Because denial is almost always a feature of compulsive or addictive behavior, it may be difficult for you to realize that you have a problem.

Exactly what causes someone to gamble compulsively isn't well understood. Like many problems, compulsive gambling may result from a combination of biological, genetic and environmental factors.

Although most people who play cards or wager never develop a gambling problem, certain factors are more often associated with compulsive gambling:

  • Mental health issues. People who gamble compulsively often have substance misuse problems, personality disorders, depression or anxiety. Compulsive gambling may also be associated with bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
  • Age. Compulsive gambling is more common in younger and middle-aged people. Gambling during childhood or the teenage years increases the risk of developing compulsive gambling. But compulsive gambling in the older adult population can also be a problem.
  • Sex. Compulsive gambling is more common in men than women. Women who gamble typically start later in life and may become addicted more quickly. But gambling patterns among men and women have become increasingly similar.
  • Family or friend influence. If your family members or friends have a gambling problem, the chances are greater that you will, too.
  • Medications used to treat Parkinson's disease and restless legs syndrome. Drugs called dopamine agonists have a rare side effect that may result in compulsive behaviors, including gambling, in some people.
  • Certain personality characteristics. Being highly competitive, a workaholic, impulsive, restless or easily bored may increase your risk of compulsive gambling.

Compulsive gambling can have profound and long-lasting consequences for your life, such as:

  • Relationship problems
  • Financial problems, including bankruptcy
  • Legal problems or imprisonment
  • Poor work performance or job loss
  • Poor general health
  • Suicide, suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts

Although there's no proven way to prevent a gambling problem, educational programs that target individuals and groups at increased risk may be helpful.

If you have risk factors for compulsive gambling, consider avoiding gambling in any form, people who gamble and places where gambling occurs. Get treatment at the earliest sign of a problem to help prevent gambling from becoming worse.

Jun 18, 2022

  • Gambling disorder. In: Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition, Text Revision DSM-5-TR. American Psychiatric Association; 2022. https://dsm.psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • Galanter M, et al. Behavioral addictive disorders. In: The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Substance Abuse Treatment. 6th ed. American Psychiatric Publishing. 2021. https://psychiatryonline.org. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • What is gambling disorder? American Psychiatric Association. https://www.psychiatry.org/patients-families/gambling-disorder/what-is-gambling-disorder. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • Domino FJ. Overview of gambling disorder. https://www.uptodate.com/content/search. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • Bodor D, et al. Treatment of gambling disorder: Review of evidence-based aspects for best practice. Current Opinion in Psychiatry. 2021; doi:10.1097/YCO.0000000000000728.
  • Kraus SW, et al. Current pharmacotherapy for gambling disorder: A systematic review. Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2020; doi:10.1080/14656566.2019.1702969.
  • Help & treatment: Choosing a treatment facility. National Council on Problem Gambling. https://www.ncpgambling.org/help-treatment/choosing-a-treatment-facility/. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • About us. Gamblers Anonymous. https://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/node/1. Accessed April 4, 2022.
  • Oei TPS, et al. Effectiveness of a self help cognitive behavioural treatment program for problem gamblers: A randomized controlled trial. Journal of Gambling Studies. 2018; doi:10.1007/s10899-017-9723-1.
  • Hall-Flavin DK (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic. April 26, 2022.
  • Diseases & Conditions
  • Compulsive gambling symptoms & causes

Associated Procedures

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Psychotherapy


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