How to Help a Loved One With a Gambling Problem


A person gambles when they put something of value, such as money, on an event that has an element of chance and the potential to win a prize. The event could be anything from a horse race to a lottery drawing. Gambling includes betting on sports events, games of skill like poker, or even playing a slot machine. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) now treats pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder, along with other conditions such as kleptomania and pyromania. The APA also moved pathological gambling from the category of compulsions to the addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).

A major reason for the psychiatric community’s shifting viewpoint is that more people are now willing to admit they have a gambling problem. Research suggests that compulsive gamblers are more likely to be male, older, or married. Also, people who begin gambling in their teen years are more likely to become compulsive than those who start later in life.

While many people enjoy gambling, for others it can become a dangerous habit that leads to financial disaster. In fact, there is a high risk of suicide among people who have serious gambling problems. If you think that you are at risk, speak to a debt adviser right away. There are also some people who develop a gambling disorder after experiencing a financial crisis, such as bankruptcy.

Some researchers believe that recreational interest, diminished mathematical skills, poor judgment, cognitive distortions, and mental illness can all lead to a gambling problem. In addition, they point to a variety of environmental and genetic factors that can contribute to it.

Unlike drugs, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are no FDA-approved medications to treat a gambling disorder. However, several types of psychotherapy can help a person overcome their gambling habits and change unhealthy emotions and thoughts. The therapist can also teach them how to handle stress and find other ways to spend their time.

It may be difficult to know how to help a loved one with a gambling problem. However, it is important to set boundaries in managing their money. This will help them stay accountable and prevent their gambling behavior from impacting the entire family. You should also consider taking on legal responsibilities like managing their credit and ensuring that they don’t take out loans or lines of credit.

It’s also crucial to make sure that you have a solid support system. Talking to a trusted friend or counselor can help you understand your situation and keep you from feeling alone in the struggle against an addiction. You can also find help online, including websites that provide anonymous support and live chats. Some of these websites offer free debt advice, such as StepChange.