Recognising the Signs and Symptoms of a Gambling Problem


Gambling is the wagering of something of value, usually money, on an uncertain outcome – in other words, the risk of losing money or assets. While some people may enjoy gambling and have no problems, others find it hard to control their gambling behaviour and often experience harmful consequences such as strained or broken relationships, debt and poor health.

Some people find it hard to recognise when their gambling is becoming a problem and may deny there is a problem, even when it causes them financial or emotional distress. This is partly due to the fact that many of the effects of gambling are intangible, making them difficult to identify or quantify. However, there are a number of steps you can take to help if you suspect someone is struggling with a gambling addiction.

One of the most important things to do is to recognise the signs and symptoms of a gambling problem, which include:

The earliest sign of a gambling issue is often the inability to control the amount you’re betting or how much time you spend gaming. You might also start lying about how much you’re spending or hiding evidence of your gambling activities. You may also become obsessed with the idea of winning and start fantasising about what you’d do if you won big.

Many people who gamble use it as a way to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, such as loneliness or boredom. In addition, it can be a way to escape from stressful events or arguments. However, there are healthier ways to relieve these feelings than gambling, such as exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble and practicing relaxation techniques.

If you’re worried about someone else’s gambling, it’s important to talk to them in a supportive and concerned manner, rather than being deceptive or aggressive. It can also be helpful to seek professional help, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). This is an effective treatment for a range of addictions and can help you locate the root cause of your gambling behaviour, determine triggers and develop coping mechanisms.

Intangible costs and benefits of gambling are difficult or impossible to quantify in dollar terms, but progress is being made towards identifying these. For example, if construction of a casino facility destroys a wetland, this can be offset by funding to create or expand wetlands elsewhere in the community. Nevertheless, most gambling-related economic analysis studies focus only on identifying and quantifying tangible benefits, ignoring intangible impacts. This is a significant shortcoming in this type of research. In an effort to address this gap, there is a growing emphasis on ‘inclusive impact assessment’ which includes both tangible and intangible costs and benefits. However, this is a relatively new area of research and there are still limitations.