Understanding problem gambling

The increasing range of online gambling sites makes it harder than ever for those with a compulsion to gamble to avoid doing so. Compulsive gambling can impact your health and relationships, and can leave you with serious debt problems.

For those struggling with an addiction to gambling who would like to stop, a range of support services are available.

How do you identify if you or someone you know is struggling with compulsive gambling? Try the following questionnaire*:

How do I know if I’m a problem gambler?

  • Score 0 for each time you answer “never”
  • Score 1 for each time you answer “sometimes”
  • Score 2 for each time you answer “most of the time”
  • Score 3 for each time you answer “almost always”
QuestionScore
Do you bet more than you can afford to lose?  
Do you need to gamble with larger amounts of money to get the same feeling?  
Have you tried to win back money you have lost (chasing losses)?  
Have you borrowed money or sold anything to get money to gamble?  
Have you wondered whether you have a problem with gambling?  
Has your gambling caused you any health problems, including feelings of stress or anxiety?  
Have other people criticised your betting or told you that you had a gambling problem (regardless of whether or not you thought it was true)?  
Has your gambling caused any financial problems for you or your household?  
Have you ever felt guilty about the way you gamble or what happens when you gamble?  
Total score

If your total score is eight or higher, this indicates that you may be a problem gambler.

Questionnaire source – NHS Choices website 2019

Self-help tips

In addition to seeking support with your gambling addiction, you may also want to become more aware of your individuals triggers and reasons for your gambling. Increasing your level of understanding about how and why you gamble may ultimately, help you to gain control of your gambling behaviour.

Try keeping a record of your gambling activity with a diary, this is an important step as it will help you to gain a better insight into your behaviour. Use the diary to record how much of your money and time you spend gambling, how you feel whilst gambling as well as your individual triggers and the consequences of gambling. Use the diary to keep a track of:

  • What you were doing
  • Who you were with
  • Time and money spent
  • What type of gambling
  • The consequences.

Gambling Diary

Keeping an accurate record is really important. Depending on your own individual gambling patterns you may need to complete this a number of times during each day to ensure it is up to date.

Once you have completed your diary for a couple of weeks, take time to look back and review your notes. This may help you to identify particular triggers. For example, it may be that you tend to feel alone, bored or anxious before starting gambling.

Download Gambling Diary (0.12mb)

When trying to gain control of your gambling it is important to remember these few simple rules:

Do

  • Always pay important bills, such as your mortgage, on pay day before you gamble.
  • Try to spend more time with family and friends who don’t gamble.
  • Always try to deal with your debts rather than ignoring them. The retailTRUST helpline offers free and confidential support. The team can be contacted on 0808 801 0808, if required.

Don’t

  • View gambling as a way to make money, try to see it as entertainment instead.
  • Bottle up your worries about your gambling, talk to someone.
  • Take credit or debit cards with you when you gamble.

Treatment and support options

For those struggling with problem gambling there is a range of available treatment and support options. Gambling is treatable and can be addressed successfully in the same way that other addictions can. These include:

1. Engaging in a ’talking therapy’ such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Commonly used to treat anxiety and depression, CBT has also proven to be an effective treatment for those struggling with issues relating to gambling.

2. Accessing a support group to address your individual issue. A range of options are available depending on where you live:

  • GamCare offer free information, support and counselling for problem gamblers in the UK.
  • Support is available via the National Gambling Helpline (0808 8020 133) and face-to-face counselling.
  • If you live in England or Wales, are aged 16 or over and have complex problems related to gambling, you can choose to self-refer to the specialist NHS clinic for problem gamblers.  
  • Gamblers Anonymous UK run local support groups that use the 12-step approach to recovery from addiction in the same way as Alcoholics Anonymous. In addition, they also run support groups for friends and family.