Dealing With Gambling Disorders

Most adults have placed some type of bet, but only a subset develops gambling disorder — defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent pattern of gambling that causes significant distress or impairment. People with gambling disorders often feel depressed, anxious or guilty and may lie to others about their gambling. They are often secretive and might hide money or possessions to conceal the extent of their addiction.

People with gambling disorders often seek relief from unpleasant feelings in unhealthy ways. They might eat to relieve boredom or turn to drugs or alcohol to self-soothe mood swings. Ultimately, they may gamble to try to win back lost money. Those with gambling disorders tend to be more vulnerable than other gamblers because of their low incomes, with men and young people being particularly susceptible.

Bringing up the subject of gambling in a positive, supportive way can help. Be aware that some people with a gambling problem might respond defensively and become argumentative, so you should approach the subject in a calm and caring manner. Some people might also be uncomfortable talking about their gambling, so it is important to find a private and distraction-free space to talk.

It can be difficult to cope with a loved one’s gambling problems, especially when they cause stress in the relationship or threaten financial security. You can help by managing family finances until the person stops gambling, opening bank accounts that require signatures to withdraw funds and putting valuables in a safe deposit box. You can also help by spending time with friends who don’t gamble and engaging in healthy stress-relieving activities, such as meditation or exercise.

Posted in: Gambling