Gambling Problems

Signs & Symptoms   |   Causes   |    Treatment   |   Questions to Ask   |   Self-Care/Prevention

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For most people, gambling is a social event done responsibly. For as much as 4% of all adults, though, gambling can disrupt their lives. About 2 million (1%) of adults in the U.S. meet the criteria for pathological gambling.


Another 4 to 8 million persons (2–3%) are problem gamblers. They are not pathological gamblers, but have problems due to gambling.

Signs & Symptoms

For Pathological Gambling

Pathological gamblers are addicted to gambling. They do 5 or more of these things:

•  They are pre-occupied with gambling. They dwell on past gambling events, plan future gambling bouts, and/or think about ways to get money to gamble with.

•  They need to increase the amount of money to gamble with to get a desired level of excitement.

•  They have tried to control, limit, or stop gambling without success.

•  They are restless or very cranky when they try to limit or stop gambling.

•  They gamble to escape problems or to relieve negative feelings.

•  They gamble to get even for past gambling losses.

•  They lie to others to hide how much they are involved with gambling.

•  They have stolen or done another illegal act to get money for gambling.

•  They have lost a job, a relationship, etc., due to gambling.

•  They rely on others to bail them out from money problems due to gambling.

Other Problems Pathological Gamblers Have

•  They abuse alcohol or drugs.

•  They sleep poorly.

•  They are prone to stress-related conditions, such as high blood pressure, headaches, and mood disorders, such as depression.

•  They have thoughts of suicide.

•  They gamble constantly.

•  They want to have wealth and material goods without working hard to get them.

•  They think that money is both the cause of and solution to all of their problems.

•  They feel important or “in control” and over-confident while betting.


Gamblers Anonymous International Service Office



Problem gambling occurs when gambling can’t be controlled. It may follow years of social gambling, but then may be set into motion by a stressful event or greater exposure to gambling.


Problem gamblers report that one or both parents had a drinking and/or gambling problem.


Problem gambling is an illness. It needs professional treatment.

Questions to Ask

Self-Care / Prevention

Along with professional treatment:

•  Learn all you can about gambling and its effects.

•  Contact Gamblers Anonymous (GA).

•  Ask your family and friends to help you take part in non-gambling activities.

•  When you feel compelled to gamble, do something else. Exercise. Take a warm bath or shower. Spend time on a hobby.

•  Get involved in school, church, and community activities. These can help distract you from gambling.

This website is not meant to substitute for expert medical advice or treatment. Follow your doctor’s or health care provider’s advice if it differs from what is given in this guide.


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