How to Deal With Problem Gambling

This guide provides information and tools that help you tackle a gambling problem. Learn how to identify early warning signs and what to do if you or someone you care for is negatively affected by gambling.

What You’ll Learn On This Page

Recognising Problem Gambling

For some people, gambling unfortunately turns into a compulsive habit with harmful consequences. But it isn’t always for someone to recognise they have an unhealthy relationship with gambling.

So, how do you define a gambling problem?

Well, by definition, a gambling problem is when you experience an uncontrollable urge to gamble despite harmful consequences or a strong desire to stop. You become preoccupied with gambling and feel a need to bet more money to get the same rush of adrenaline. However, once you experience these symptoms, it’s safe to say the problem has escalated far.

If you decide to gamble, you should take a proactive approach and learn how to recognise early warning signs. This will help you tackle a problem early on and avoid it snowballing into a potentially uncontrollable problem with dire consequences.

Signs of Problem Gambling

Recognising tendencies of problematic gambling in yourself requires self-awareness and honesty. To find out if people you care about are experiencing gambling issues, you must study their habits and reactions when you confront them about their gambling habits. Any signs of secrecy or defensiveness are strong indicators.

Common Signs in Yourself

There are many warning signs of a potential gambling problem.

Some are more obvious than others, but always take caution and seek help if you spot any of the following behaviours in yourself:

  • You’re Secretive About Gambling: You gamble in secret or lie about how much you gamble because you feel a sense of shame or worry that others won’t understand.
  • You Gamble When You Don’t Have The Money: You resort to selling possessions or using funds meant for other expenses to continue gambling.
  • You Struggle To Cut Back, Or Stop Gambling:  You feel an overwhelming urge to gamble and find it difficult to reduce or stop gambling despite recognising the negative consequences.
  • You Feel Restless Or Irritable When Trying To Cut Down: You feel frustrated or agitated when trying to avoid gambling.
  • You Chase Losses: You gamble more aggressively to win back money you’ve lost.
  • You Neglect Responsibilities: You miss work, neglect family or social obligations, and avoid commitments.
  • You Borrow Or Steal Money: You borrow money from friends and family or engage in illegal activities to support your gambling habit.
  • You Experience Financial Problems: You struggle to pay bills, indebt yourself, or experience other financial troubles as a result of your gambling.
  • You Feel Guilt Or Remorse: You experience feelings of guilt or regret after gambling but still find yourself compelled to gamble again.
  • You Gamble To Escape: You gamble as a coping mechanism to deal with stress, anxiety, or other negative emotions.

Common Signs in Others

When you believe someone close to you is suffering from gambling addiction, you must step in as early as possible.

If someone you care about shows any of the symptoms we’ve explained, it’s definitely time to take action. In addition to these indicators, there are a few common warning signs you’re likely to observe as a friend, partner or family member:

  • Constantly Talking About Gambling: You notice an excessive focus on gambling, where they often discuss bets, wins, losses, or gambling strategies.
  • Withdrawal From Social Activities: They fail to attend social interactions and activities they once enjoyed and choose to gamble instead.
  • Asks To Borrow Money: The person regularly asks you to lend them money without explaining how they intend to use the money. And when they give a reason, it seems vague or nonsensical.
  • Defensiveness When Asked About Their Gambling: They get aggressive or annoyed when you ask about their gambling habits.
  • Continuous Financial Struggles: The person always seems to struggle financially for no apparent reason.

What To Do If You Think You Have A Gambling Problem

If you think you have a gambling problem, you must act immediately.

If you’ve experienced any of the warning signs we’ve discussed, it’s time to step back, assess your situation and follow an action plan that’ll get back on track and prevent any additional harmful consequences.

Assess Your Lifestyle

Reflect on the consequences gambling has on your life. Can you see any correlation between your gambling habits and lifestyle choices or relationships with people you care about?

Ask yourself the following questions and  be brutally honest with yourself when answering them:

  • Are you struggling to make ends meet? Are you in debt? Do you fail to keep up with financial commitments like your mortgage or car payments?
  • Are you experiencing conflicts or friction with your family, partner, or friends?
  • Are you experiencing heightened stress or anxiety? Have you noticed changes in your mood or behaviour?
Top Tip

Take A Self-Assessment Test

There are many online self-assessments that help you understand the severity of your gambling tendencies.  We highly recommend taking the Responsible Gambling Council self-assessment, to gauge if your behaviour is healthy or compulsive.

Take Poactive Measures

The best approach to tackle the adverse effects of gambling is to ensure they never manifest. There are several tools you can use to limit yourself from spending more time and money than you’ve intended on gambling.

Let’s explore a few options:

  • BetBlocker: Allows you to block gambling sites across all your devices.
  • Gamban: Provides comprehensive blocking of gambling sites and apps.
  • GAMSTOP: A free service that enables you to self-exclude from all UK-based gambling websites.

In addition to these tools, you should use the various gambling limits regulated casinos offer. Read our article about self-exclusion and responsible gambling tools at online casinos to learn more about what limits there are and how they work.

Developing Healthy Habits

You should look at gambling as an affordable entertainment expense. It shouldn’t be your only interest but a pastime you enjoy in the same way you’d enjoy any other hobby.

Here are recommendations for lifestyle choices and practices that can help you strike the right balance and maintain a healthy perspective:

  • Regular Exercise: Physical activity boosts endorphins, improves your mood, and reduces stress. It provides a ‘natural high’ and a distraction from gambling urges.
  • Mindfulness: This helps you manage cravings and stay focused on the present moment, reducing the temptation to gamble.
  • A Balanced Diet: Proper nutrition supports overall mental and physical health, stabilising mood swings and energy levels, which, in turn, destabilises gambling triggers.
  • Engaging in Hobbies or Social Activities: These activities are a positive outlet for energy and time, replacing the thrill of gambling with constructive and fulfilling experiences.
  • Spend Quality Time with Family and Friends: Strengthening your relationships will offer emotional support and reduce feelings of loneliness or boredom, which are common triggers for compulsive gambling.

By incorporating these practices, you can build a solid foundation for sustained health and lower the risk of addiction.

Seek Professional Help

If you feel gambling tools or self-exclusion aren’t effective enough, you must seek professional help from a qualified professional.

We also advise you to join support groups like Gamblers Anonymous where you can meet people who are going through similar experiences as you. The sense of community along with shared experiences and collective wisdom can help your recovery.

In addition to therapy and support groups, professional help can include:

  • Medication – To manage underlying mental health issues.
  • Financial Counselling – To address monetary problems.
  • Comprehensive Rehabilitation Programs – For more holistic and supervised support systems.

Read our Directory of Resources and Organisations That Can Help Problem Gamblers to find out where to receive professional support.

Helping Another Person Who You Think Might Have An Issue with Gambling

It’s hard to see someone you care about suffer. This is precisely why it’s crucial to know the best ways to approach this sensitive subject and, most importantly, suitable ways of being a good support system for them.

Approach the Subject

When addressing the issue of problem gambling with someone you care about, you need to be mindful and approach the conversation with a great deal of sensitivity.

Moreover, you should:

  • Find a private and calm moment to talk in a distraction-free environment. Don’t choose a busy or chaotic place or one that’s packed with people. You want to have clear and open communication without interruptions.
  • Avoid bringing up the topic when emotions are high or during a gambling session. This would be the least ideal time to broach the topic, as the person probably won’t be thinking clearly.
  • Express your concern without being judgmental. Let the person know you care and want to help them. Remember, they’re most likely already feeling ashamed of their behaviour, so the right tone and body language make a difference.

Provide Practical Support

Aside from displaying sensitivity and empathy, you should suggest practical measures to ensure they get the help they need.

Here are some steps you can take:

  • Encourage them to consult a therapist or counsellor who specialises in gambling addiction.
  • Accompany them to their first appointment if they feel uncomfortable going alone. Your presence can provide the moral support they need to take the first step.
  • Establish financial boundaries and find ways to stick to them. Work together to set a budget and create strategies to avoid situations where they might gamble.

Be Patient and Persistent

You must provide consistent encouragement and understanding while establishing firm boundaries to help the person in their recovery. Remember your role in all this and don’t fall into the trap of becoming an enabler.

Be firm and not lend them money or bail them out of gambling debts, since this can only encourage them to continue, making it harder for them to recognise the need to stop.

Regularly check in on their progress and offer encouragement, as recovery from gambling addiction is a long-term process. Consistent and continuous support helps them stay motivated and feel less isolated.

Read More About Responsible Gambling

If you suspect you or a loved one are suffering from a gambling problem, we strongly recommend you seek professional help immediately. In addition to this advice, we have several educational guides on various aspects related to responsible gambling and gambling addiction.

About the Author

Hi, I'm Laura Simpson, the Chief Editor at NoDepositCasino.Guide - With hundreds of reviews and thousands of no deposit bonuses, NoDepositCasino.Guide is certainly your one-stop destination for free online gambling. Our bonuses are updated daily and we pride ourselves on providing the highest percentage of working bonus, worldwide.