What to Do When You Notice Problem Gambling in a Loved One

Published On: May 17, 2022|Categories: Addiction|

Taking an interest in your loved one’s finances can feel intrusive. However, as a family member or friend we tend to notice when things are going wrong and worry when money problems arise. 

Too often, the root of financial issues is gambling. If you’re concerned about problem gambling in a loved one, you’ve come to the right place. In this overview of gambling, we’ll share a problem gambling definition, signs that your loved one might be affected by it and what you can do about it.

What is “problem gambling”? 

If you’re looking for a problem gambling definition, it’s likely that you’re concerned your loved one is struggling with an unhealthy habit, whether he knows it or not. Gambling addiction, also called problem gambling, is when a person feels an impulse to continue gambling despite significant negative consequences.

Gambling includes any behavior that deals with taking risks with money or other items of value. It can include sports betting, slot machines, online poker and several other forms.

While many people are able to gamble casually, those with a gambling addiction will feel frequent urges to gamble that seem uncontrollable and irresistible. Negative consequences always follow excessive gambling, such as job loss, ruined relationships and financial issues like debt.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, gambling disorder tends to run in families and while it can happen at any age, it usually has an earlier onset for men and a later onset for women

It’s not common for people to talk about the personal and societal costs of gambling, but the scope of the issue is immense. According to the National Center for Responsible Gambling, around one percent of the United States population is affected by gambling disorder

What are signs of problem gambling?

If you’re worried about problem gambling with a loved one, there are some tell-tale signs that your hunch is correct. Look out for these symptoms of gambling disorder:

  • Uncontrollable thoughts about gambling or the next opportunity to gamble
  • Needed to gamble with more and more money every time
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when unable to gamble (such as irritability, restlessness, distractibility) 
  • Seeking out gambling as an outlet for overwhelming emotions
  • A cycle of guilt and urges to gamble
  • Chasing losses
  • Acting secretive
  • Keeping secrets
  • Lying about financial concerns with a spouse or another person who shares finances
  • Planning how to obtain more money
  • Attempting to quit gambling and being unable to
  • Attempting to quit gambling several times
  • Partaking in risky behaviors to obtain more money
  • Borrowing money

Gambling disorders can be devastating, especially if left unchecked and untreated over time. If you’ve noticed the above signs of problem gambling in a loved one, it’s time to reach out for help and address the issue for good.

What can I do about problem gambling?

Helping someone who struggles with problem gambling can be tricky, especially because someone has to desire change— it can’t be forced upon them. However, when your loved one is ready to get serious about stopping, there are ways you can make a positive impact.

Understand gambling addictions

One of the best tools at your disposal for helping a loved one is education. The more you understand problem gambling signs, the cognitive process of a gambling addiction and the methods of treatment, the more help you can provide.

Not only will your loved one benefit from your knowledge, but you’ll also have more peace of mind when you have a realistic perspective. Just ensure that you’re using reputable sources to gather information. 

Address problem gambling signs

One of the most effective ways to encourage treatment for problem gambling in a loved one is to identify specific ways the addiction has caused issues. Sometimes, pointing out behaviors can illuminate a person to the real toll gambling has taken on his or her life.

Encourage treatment

The second step in helping a loved one addicted to gambling is to encourage treatment. Show support for professional intervention, offer perks of treatment or even help your loved one brainstorm the pros and cons of seeking healing from gambling.


Understanding your limited role in helping a loved one who gambles too much is difficult, but it also gives you an irreplaceable task. As a close family member or friend, you are a trusted confidant, and therefore you provide a listening ear on the hardest of days. 

Don’t judge or counsel, just create a safe space for conversation.

Celebrate growth

Overcoming problem gambling is not an easy challenge and it won’t happen overnight. It’s important to look for little victories and celebrate them. Keep an eye out for milestones, like a week in treatment, a month without gambling and markers of financial progress. 

How do I get my loved one connected?

If your loved one is struggling with a gambling problem, it’s common to feel helpless. Pyramid Healthcare can help you shake that feeling by offering you and your friend or family member the support you deserve. 

Pyramid Healthcare provides hope and healing for addiction recovery. Get connected now to learn more about services and admissions.

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