Helping Someone With a Gambling Addiction

Gambling is any game of chance in which you stake something of value for the potential to win more. It can be as simple as buying a lottery ticket, online poker or picking your fantasy sports team. It can be as complex as betting on a horse race or the Super Bowl, and it can be as virtual as opening loot boxes in video games. Gambling can occur at any age and is available in many places including casinos, lotteries, sporting events, online and through mobile apps.

Problem gambling is associated with emotional distress and can lead to relationship, health and financial issues. Almost three to four percent of people report having some gambling problems and one in two have serious problems. It is estimated that one person with a gambling problem affects seven other people.

A gambling addiction can be complicated to understand, but it is rooted in the brain’s reward pathway and hijacked by an expectation of a big early win. This impulsive behaviour causes people to continue to gamble, often increasing their bets in an attempt to win back their losses. This is a typical pattern of compulsive gambling, which is linked to depression and other mood disorders.

There are several things you can do to help someone with a gambling addiction. Strengthen your support network by reaching out to friends and family, or finding a peer group such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model of Alcoholics Anonymous. It can also be helpful to see a therapist or seek treatment for underlying mood disorders that may have contributed to the gambling behavior.