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What You Need To Know About Gambling Addiction

March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month and yes, gambling is also mental health issue.

Like any behavioral or chemical addiction, gambling addiction can negatively affect  every area of a person’s life, including relationships, job, finances (of course), health, and more.

How can you tell if you or someone in your life has a problem with gambling? The DSM-5 offers the following criteria, for informational purposes only. If you or someone you know meets the following, get help now:

A. Persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, as indicated by the individual exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12 month
a. Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve the desired excitement.
b. Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
c. Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop gambling.
d. Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling
experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with
which to gamble).
e. Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).
f. After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
g. Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
h. Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, or educational or career opportunity
because of gambling.
i. Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situations caused by gambling.
B. The gambling behavior is not better explained by a manic episode.

If you’re not sure where to turn, contact Gamblers Anonymous (for international and national help), GamAnon (for family members of gamblers), or to the National Council on Problem Gambling where they have an interactive map you can click on to find help in your US state.

As a an addiction and anxiety specialist, I realized many years ago that getting a gambling addiction counselor specialty credential was essential if I wanted to be able to help individuals and families dealing with a range of addiction problems.

Often, there is overlap in a variety of addiction and mental health issues. Many times, chemical addiction and other behavioral addictions overlap with gambling addiction. Also, certain mental health issues are compounded by or triggered by gambling. Throughout my work, I’ve seen people go to the race track or casino, and the gambling they do there is a trigger for alcohol or drug abuse. I’ve also seen people who drink or do drugs, and have an irrepressible urge to gamble.

In fact, some people are just addicted to extreme excitement with a strong element of risk-taking involved. Of course, gambling is a huge risk, but even those who dislike risk, can find themselves with a gambling problem.

Sadly, when it comes to treating gambling, usually insurance won’t cover it. I wish this would change, but until then, if you or someone you love has a gambling problem, go to Gamblers Anonymous, Gam-Anon, and other 12-step programs.

However, if your primary diagnosis is either mental health (anxiety disorder, depression, BPD, etc.) or a chemical addiction, your insurance might pay for treatment as long as it part of treatment for the primary diagnosis. The truth is that help for gambling is available and even if there is some cost involved, it will be a lot less expensive than a gambling addiction.

If you need more information about gambling or any addiction, feel free to email me at [email protected]



What You Need To Know About Gambling Addiction

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC & C.R. Zwolinski

Richard Zwolinski, LMHC, CASAC is the author of Therapy Revolution: Find Help, Get Better, and Move On Without Wasting Time or Money and is licensed in addiction and psychotherapy with over 25 years experience as well as a consultant to organizations and companies in the fields of mental health and addiction. He is the executive director of an outpatient behavioral health program. Learn more about Richard here.

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APA Reference
& C.R. Zwolinski, R. (2018). What You Need To Know About Gambling Addiction. Psych Central. Retrieved on July 11, 2020, from


Last updated: 12 Mar 2018
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