Problem Gambling – What Is It, and How To Overcome It

Problem gambling, or ludomania, is the addiction to games and gambling. It is a behavior that can disrupt a gambler's life and affect them mentally and financially.

Problem gambling is often mistaken to be the same as a gambling addiction. The truth is that problem gambling is actually any type of gambling that has a negative effect on someone. You may be searching about problem gambling with worries about yourself or a loved one. We will help to clarify what signs to look out for and why someone may be drawn to it.

There are ways to help others who are having trouble and to help yourself if you think you may be struggling with problem gambling. Even if you are just curious about the term, we have all the answers you are looking for.

What Is Problem Gambling?

Problem gambling, or ludomania, is the addiction to games and gambling. It is a behavior that can disrupt your life and affect you mentally and financially. If you or someone you know spends more and more money and spends lots of time gambling, despite the sometimes serious consequences, you may be dealing with ludomania. Many of us just buy the odd scratch card or make a bet with a friend.

Problem gambling is only an issue for about 9 in every 1,000 people. However, 70 out of 1,000 people gamble at a high level that could later create problems for them.

In a 2016 report, the Gambling Commission has estimated there are up to 340,000 problem gamblers in the United Kingdom alone. The report suggested that problem gamblers are five times more likely to be male than female. They are also more likely to be unemployed, have signs of mental health issues, and indicate signs of low well-being. Those struggling with problem gambling are also most likely aged 25-34. Signs that someone may have a problem with gambling include anxiety or stress, as well as lying about their gambling habits and betting more than they can lose. Some may even push themselves away from their relatives or loved ones just so they can "play in peace".

Problem Gambling vs Addiction

There is actually a difference between problem gambling and gambling addiction. Both gambling addiction and excessive gambling can cause major money loss and other serious challenges for one's mental health. Whether you think someone is struggling with problem gambling or gambling addiction, refer them to the help they may need.

Someone who has a gambling addiction bets on compulsion. It doesn't matter what the bet is or what it's on, they take it. Addicts can often time not be bothered whether they win or lose, it's the action of betting that they enjoy. Gambling addiction can often be the result of a bigger problem such as trauma.

Problem Gambling is any type of problem involving gambling that may interrupt someone's life. Someone who is a problem gambler is aware of what they're doing. Unlike a gambling addict who may bet through their entire bank wages and not realize it. These people don't place bets out of compulsion but rather a desire. Many will start by making small and meaningless bets and wagers. The spiral can deepen quickly when the losses begin to pile up.

Support & Hotlines

If you have questions or need help with your own gambling or friends, there are many helplines you can get in contact with. Like many other addictions, there is always help from professionals and others who have been in your situation just a phone call away.

Hotlines and helplines are there to help you not only find the help you need but be there if you are struggling to avoid a trigger to top your problem gambling.

Remember that you or your relative are not alone. Get in touch with these helplines to get started!

Why Do People Gamble Too Much?

Exactly what causes a person to gamble compulsively isn't very well understood. Like many other addictions or behaviors, problem gambling can be a result of a combination of biological, environmental, and genetic factors. Gambling can be seen and used by some as a way to try and make some money for nothing. Some may also use it as a way to get an adrenaline rush. Many poker players keep on playing to "recoup" their losses.

Gambling is used by addicts as a way to receive a positive boost of adrenaline. It can also be used to escape feelings of anxiety, depression, or guilt. Winning a bet can stimulate the brain's reward system in the same way drugs or alcohol would.

When someone begins a cycle of betting and losing then betting to try and make up for the loss it can be difficult to escape the vicious cycle. This can be the reason that many fall into problem gambling. Many will chase bets that lead to losses and then hide their behavior or accumulate debt. The attraction of gambling is also amplified by the media. We see the lottery in almost every shop we go in, slot machines in movies, and other forms of betting in most media we intake daily.

Signs of Problem Gambling

If you or a loved one is struggling with gambling and you're worried they may have an issue with problem gambling, there are a few signs you can keep an eye out for. We've broken them down into a few different categories.

Financial signs

The first and most obvious thing to keep an eye out for is financial signs of problem gambling. Someone who is struggling with gambling could also be struggling with debt, paying bills, and other financial responsibilities. Gambling addicts could also be asking to borrow money and then making excuses as to why they can't pay it back.

Other signs could be having a secret account for the money they gamble, or even cash kept around to make bets. You should also keep an eye out for a loss in money from bank accounts, wallets, or money jars. Often times someone struggling with gambling can also have several loans at once or begin to be secretive with financial records and other payslips.

A lack of financial personal care can also be a sign of gambling problems. This includes a lack of food, personal care products, and other things. A lack of food can also include the only food items in the house being snacks that require little to no preparation. Someone who may be struggling with ludomania may also steal household objects and valuables. They will do so to sell them and make money to use for gambling. Using charm or lies to manipulate others to give them money or get them out of trouble is also a sign of financial problems due to gambling.

Personal signs

Another thing to monitor is personal signs that someone may be struggling with. Often times a problem like an addiction to gambling can go hand in hand with other addictions like alcoholism, smoking, and other things. Someone who is struggling with problem gambling may also be secluding themselves and pushing friends away or ignoring them, making false promises of change, or lying about losses from gambled money. It is common to notice changes in a person who is struggling with gambling. Keep an eye out for signs like their behavior, schedule, and finances changing dramatically.

Dysfunction in a persons day to day life is also a sign. Someone may be struggling with work, maintaining relationships, and withdrawing from social activities. Someone who is struggling with problem gambling or gambling addiction can also express guilt or remorse after gambling. Anxiety and depression can also come hand in hand with a gambling problem. Some people may also begin to struggle with suicidal thoughts and tendencies due to their gambling problem.

Emotional signs

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, those who are problem gamblers have a higher likelihood to struggle with problems such as low self-esteem, stress-related disorders, and anxiety. They may also begin to struggle with poor sleep and appetite, substance misuse problems, and depression.

Someone struggling with problem gambling can also be struggling with extreme emotions or mood swings, using gambling as a way to deal with problems and suicidal thoughts. If you or someone you love feels that gambling is the only thing they enjoy then they may be struggling with a gambling addiction or problem gambling. Although some may use gambling as a way to escape negative emotions, these conditions can actually be worsened by it.

If someone you love is distancing themselves from their family and loved ones as well as showing signs of sudden financial insecurity and other things you should refer them to a professional who can help with their gambling problems. Someone struggling with problem gambling often distances themselves from their social circle, goes out to gamble alone, stays up late to go out and gamble, and changes their routine in order to focus more on gambling. Breaking a routine of gambling can be difficult for someone and may result in sleeplessness, feelings of intense anxiety or depression, and other negative emotions.

Professional issues

Gambling not only affects individuals financially and socially but can decrease an individual's motivation to do well in their career. If someone is struggling with problem gambling they are more likely to ask for extra time off of work in order to feed their gambling addiction or even to help them feel better and deal with the anxiety and depression that can come with excess gambling. This addiction can also affect an individual's focus which would make it more difficult to put in the required effort of a career. A recent study found that nearly ten percent of adults have direct experience with the problems that gambling can cause in the workplace.

Problem gambling causes financial difficulty, debt, and sometimes bankruptcy. This can also lead to illegal substance misuse and amplified anxiety or depression. If you are a business owner dealing with an individual in your workplace who has issues with problem gambling you could see an increase in asking for sick time, paid leave, impacts on your employee's mental health, and reduced productivity. This can not only attribute to difficulty running your business but damage in reputation to your work.

Research found that nearly 5% of fraud is related to problem gambling. This is up to £225 million each year. This increase in fraud related to problem gambling is due to the increase of people asking for loans or going into debt in order to feed their gambling addiction. Chasing losses in gambling is a common but unwise move that those struggling with problem gambling will often take. This leads to people betting more than they can lose and then taking out loans and failing to repay them due to the lack of finances.

Some will take out a line of credit in order to pay for their habits and when they are unable to pay the bank back, they will be forced to deal with the repercussions. Legal troubles that come with such addiction also sometimes include theft. Some will steal items from friends, family, and stores in order to re-sell the item and then use the money to bet with.

Problem Gambling Treatments

If you or someone you know is seeking help for problem gambling or gambling addiction, you should get into contact with a specialist who can help guide you towards the right form of treatment. There are many different organizations and helplines that allow an individual to talk to a professional about finding help. Some offer anonymous support and many are open 24 hours in order to ensure constant around the clock care and assistance.

Like any other addiction, it can feel impossible to overcome and get a problem under control. Without the correct support, you or a loved one may slip back into your old ways and back into the vicious cycle that is problem gambling.

Specialized Counselling

The first treatment and most common is counseling. Counseling can help with many different mental health issues and problem gambling is no different.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a particularly successful treatment for gambling addiction. CBT helps people to learn more about their addiction and find new ways to manage their urges to gamble. This type of therapy is designed to help guide an individual through change that can rewrite their thoughts and beliefs when it comes to gambling in order to point them in the direction of a future free of addiction.

Counseling focuses on what triggers an individual's need to give in to their addiction. Understanding what causes a person to want to gamble can allow them to make progress in avoiding stressful and triggering situations. There are other forms of therapy that can help with problem gambling including hypnotherapy, psychotherapy, or just generalized counseling. Counseling and therapy can allow individuals to create constructive ways to cope and give them the tools to support themselves and reframe their mindset.

Gamblers Anonymous

Gamblers anonymous is a group of individuals who come together to share their stories and support others struggling with similar problematic gambling habits. They share strength and hope with one another in order to support their community and help others like themselves. At a gamblers anonymous meeting, someone struggling with this condition will be surrounded by others who have struggled in a similar way to them. Many people have already come forward to share their stories of recovery and overcoming challenges that come alongside problem gambling.

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, gamblers anonymous is there to remind you that you are not alone. There are many other people who have struggled and recovered in the same way that you can. This twelve-step program is based on peer support and a shared desire to get better and overcome problem gambling.


If you engage in physical activities it can help to improve the healing process for both your body and mind. Taking part in yoga and other forms of exercise can not only help to distract both you and your mind's urges but also give you something else to put your energy into when you are thinking about gambling.

Exercising helps to improve the immune system and can also help restore a healthy balance to the brain's neurotransmitters. Exercising can also help to minimize anxiety and stress and lead to improved sleeping patterns and conditions.

Signing up at a gym or taking part in a team sport can also help you to surround yourself with people who have positive mindsets and are motivated to keep you busy with exercising. Also consider a fitness activity that can take a lot of time or happens frequently so you can put your body, thoughts, and energy into it instead of gambling.

Physical exercise also triggers the brain to release dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These are all chemicals that regulate and boost your mood naturally.

Find a New Hobby

Picking up a new hobby is yet another way to help yourself avoid gambling and recover from it. Many addiction treatment programs will encourage you to take more time to pick up a new hobby or try and learn a new skill. Getting to a point of full recovery and avoiding a relapse in the future will often require a different fulfilling activity to put your energy into.

Healthy and safe alternatives to addiction is a key part of staying away from gambling. When your brain links gambling with feeling good, anything that stimulates that feeling then becomes a trigger. If you allow yourself to take part in an activity or hobby that naturally enhances your mood it allows your brain to find new ways to release happy chemicals. These new connections allow your brain to replace those that were apart of your addiction.

Hobbies or other activities that have no relation to problem gambling can re-train the brain to find joy and pleasure from a different source. This can help your brain to trigger the reward part of your brain and allow you the same good feeling that you may have received with gambling.

Rekindle Your Friendships

Taking part in a group or re-building friendships with old social circles that are not based around your problem gambling allows you a chance to interact with friends and new individuals. Not only does this open the door to new and supportive friendships but it allows you another individual to lean on when you may be struggling and considering relapse. If you have a new group of friends or have come back in contact with past friends then you can also begin a new and fun project with them as another way to distract yourself and re-wire your brain's happy triggers.

Sometimes, when people are in the early stages of recovery, they can avoid social situations and begin to isolate themselves in order to avoid triggers. It is important that if you or someone you know is recovering from problem gambling you do not retract from those who support you and are there to help. This can lead to feelings of depression, loneliness, and other negative thoughts that may cause you to want to gamble again as a way to gain positive feelings.

Your friends and family should be your biggest support when it comes to getting over your problem gambling. There are many articles on how your friends and family can be there to support you while you are overcoming problem gambling.

Friends and family

An individual's gambling behavior not only affects them but affects their friends and family emotionally, physically, and financially. We want to highlight the fact that close friends and close relatives of a gambling addict can also call helplines and get some counseling for themselves. In a way, friends and families can get hurt as collateral damages of a gambler's blast radius.

Problem gambling is always something to be aware of. Be sure that you are taking care of yourself and having fun, with any concerns, share them with others. If not treated promptly enough, it can lead to a gambling addiction and severed relationships with what used to be the closest people in one's life.