How to Tell If Someone Has a Gambling Problem


Gambling, for some, is an occasional pastime or social activity that causes no harm. However, when it transitions from a casual hobby to a compulsive need, it can evolve into a serious problem with devastating consequences. 

A gambling problem, often referred to as gambling addiction or compulsive gambling, is a disorder characterized by an uncontrollable urge to continue gambling despite detrimental effects on one's personal and professional life.

The magnitude of gambling problems should not be underestimated. It goes beyond mere financial ruin; it can lead to issues in relationships, mental health disorders, job loss, and in extreme cases, criminal activities.

This article aims to shed light on this pressing issue, providing readers with a comprehensive understanding of the signs and symptoms of a gambling problem. 

By understanding these signs, we hope to equip individuals with the necessary knowledge to identify potential gambling problems in themselves or others. 

This awareness is the first crucial step in seeking help and initiating the path to recovery. 

Gambling Addiction Therapists in Colorado

Winnie Siwa, LPCC

Winnie Siwa, LPCC

(719) 345-2424
Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

Arias Gonzales, MS, LPC

(719) 345-2424

Understanding Gambling Problems

A gambling problem, often referred to as pathological gambling, problem gambling, or gambling addiction, is an impulse-control disorder. 

It's characterized by an individual's inability to resist the urge to gamble, despite being aware of the negative consequences. 

This compulsive behavior can lead to severe personal and financial problems. 

A person with a gambling problem will continue to gamble whether they're up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed.

The line between responsible gambling and problematic gambling is not always clear and varies from person to person.

Responsible gambling involves viewing gambling as a form of entertainment, not as a way to make money. It means setting limits on time and money spent on gambling and being prepared to stick to them.

Problematic gambling, on the other hand, involves persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior that leads to significant disruption or distress in the individual's life.

This can include chasing losses, lying to hide gambling activity, and jeopardizing important relationships or career opportunities due to gambling. 

Signs and Symptoms of a Gambling Problem

Excessive Time Spent on Gambling: Spending large amounts of time gambling can be a sign of a problem, especially if it's to the detriment of other activities or responsibilities.

Financial Issues: Struggling with debt, borrowing money, or unexplained financial hardship may be signs of a gambling problem.

Neglect of Responsibilities and Relationships: If gambling is causing a person to neglect their duties or relationships, it's likely a problem.

Emotional Symptoms: Stress, anxiety, and depression are common in people with a gambling problem.

Behavioral Changes: Secrecy, defensiveness about gambling habits, and irritability can signal a gambling problem.

Physical Symptoms: Changes in sleep patterns, weight loss/gain, or other health issues may be related to a gambling problem.

The Impact of a Gambling Problem

A gambling problem can have a profound effect on an individual's personal life. Relationships with family and friends may suffer, leading to isolation or conflict.

As the compulsion to gamble intensifies, it can lead to neglect of personal responsibilities, such as caring for loved ones or maintaining a home.

Financial hardship is also common, leading to stress and potential legal issues. 

Furthermore, the constant preoccupation with gambling can lead to a lack of interest in other activities that were once enjoyed.

In terms of professional life, a gambling problem can be equally disruptive. Productivity at work may decrease due to preoccupation with gambling.

In severe cases, a person may resort to stealing from the workplace to support their gambling habit, risking job loss and legal consequences. 

Health risks associated with gambling problems include stress-related conditions, such as hypertension and heart disease, as well as mental health disorders like depression and anxiety.

Moreover, the strain of dealing with a gambling problem can also lead to unhealthy behaviors such as excessive alcohol consumption or substance abuse. 

Steps to Address a Suspected Gambling Problem

If you suspect that someone you know has a gambling problem, approaching them about it requires careful thought and preparation.

It's important to talk to them with compassion, explaining your concerns without judgment or criticism. 

Let them know how their gambling affects you and others, and express your willingness to support them in seeking help. 

Listening to their response is crucial, as denial is a common reaction among those struggling with gambling addiction.

There are numerous resources available to help those with a gambling problem. 

Counseling services, including cognitive behavioral therapy, can be highly effective in addressing problematic gambling behaviors.

Self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous, provide a supportive community of individuals who share similar experiences and challenges.

These groups can be an invaluable source of strength and encouragement for someone dealing with a gambling problem.

Professional help is often key in overcoming a gambling problem. This can include psychotherapy, medication, and specialized treatment programs.

A professional can provide the necessary tools and strategies to manage the urge to gamble, repair relationships, and rebuild financial security. It's important to remember that recovery from a gambling problem is a process that takes time and patience. 

With the right help and support, it is absolutely possible. 


Recognizing the signs of a gambling problem, such as excessive time spent on gambling, financial issues, neglect of responsibilities, emotional distress, behavioral changes, and physical symptoms, is critical for intervention and recovery. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling problem, it's important to remember that help is available. 

Professional counseling services, self-help groups, and other resources can provide the support needed to overcome this challenge.

Recovery may not be easy, but it is possible with the right help and commitment. 

Always remember, that there's no shame in seeking help, and taking the first step towards recovery is a testament to your strength and resilience. 

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February 21st, 2024

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Many of us are often faced with struggles and hardships and finding help can be difficult. However, at Overcomers Counseling, we are here to help you in your time of need. We are passionate about people and we believe that ANYONE can be an overcomer if they are willing to pursue it.  Don't let another day go by without getting the help you desire.

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