Warning Signs of Problem Gambling

  • Preoccupied with gambling and unable to stop
  • Bragging about gambling, exaggerating wins and minimizing losses
  • Restless and irritable when not gambling
  • Gambling to win back what you've lost
  • Borrowing money for gambling
  • Lying to hide time spent gambling or unpaid debts
  • Frequent unexplained absences
  • Losing work time because of gambling
  • Jeopardizing a significant relationship or job by gambling

How To Reach Out to a Friend or Relative

A problem gambler doesn't necessarily need to "hit bottom" to decide to get help. If someone you know is gambling for more than fun, they may have a problem. Talking to them can seem scary, but they need you to have courage. Here are some ways to begin the conversation:

  • Find a comfortable place to talk where you won't be disturbed.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward.
  • Tell the person you care about him and you're concerned about how he is acting.
  • Tell the person exactly what she's done that concerns you.
  • Tell the person how his behavior is affecting other people - and be specific.
  • Be clear about what you expect from her ("I want you to talk to someone about your gambling.") and what she can expect from you ("I won't cover for you anymore.").
  • After you've told the person what you've seen and how you feel, allow him to respond. Listen with a nonjudgmental attitude.
  • Let the person know you are willing to help, but don't try to counsel him yourself. • Give the person information, not advice. Encourage her to call a problem gambling helpline.

If you are the spouse or family member of a problem gambler, it is important for you to take care of yourself and realize that you are not responsible for the gambler's behavior. Even if your loved one isn't ready or willing to get help, you may want to call a problem gambling helpline.

Problem gambling is not a bad habit or a moral weakness. It is a serious condition, but with treatment, problem gamblers can put the game in perspective and make decisions to improve their lives.

* Adapted from materials provided by the National Council on Problem Gambling. If you think you or someone you know may have a gambling problem, call the toll-free Problem Gambling HELPline at 1-888-781-4357.