About this leaflet
This leaflet is for:
anyone who is worried about their gambling
the family, partner and friends of anyone whose gambling has become a problem.Problem gambling
In this leaflet you can find out about:
Is problem gambling common?
Is my gambling a problem?
How can someone lose control of their gambling?
Living with a problem gambler - advice the family, partners and friends
What help can I get?
How to get help
Further information and links.
How common is problem gambling?
Many of us like to place the odd bet or play the lottery - but it’s only a problem for about 6 people in every 1000.
Who is most likely to get this problem?
Across the world it seems to be common:
In men – but this might just be because women gamble less than men.
In teenagers and young adults - but problems of this sort can start at any age. Children as young as 7 may find it difficult to control the amount of time they spend on computer games. Older people may have too much time on their hands.
If someone else in your family – particularly one of your parents - is a problem gambler. This may be partly due to genes but can be learnt – by seeing a parent gamble or being taught to gamble by them.
In people who work in casinos, betting shops or amusement arcades.
In certain types of gambling:
* Internet gambling
* Video poker
* Dice games
* Playing sports for money
* High-risk stocks
If you drink heavily or use illegal drugs.
If you have depression, anxiety or bipolar affective disorder (manic depression).
Is it a problem for me?
Answer 'yes' or 'no' to each of these 10 questions:
Do I spend a lot of time thinking about gambling?
Am I spending larger amounts of money on my gambling?
Have I tried to cut down or stop gambling - but not been able to?
Do I get restless or irritable if I try to cut down my gambling?
Do I gamble to escape from life’s difficulties or to cheer myself up?
Do I carry on playing after losing money - to try and win it back?
Have I lied to other people about how much time or money I spend gambling ?
Have I ever stolen money to fund my gambling?
Has my gambling affected my relationships or my job?
Do I get other people to lend me money when I have lost?
If you have answered 'yes'
Just once - Maybe a problem - This one thing may be enough of a problem to need help.
Three times - Problem gambling - Your gambling probably feels out of control - think about getting help.
Five or more times - Pathological gambling - Your gambling is probably affecting every part of your life - get help.
How do you lose control of your gambling?
You may gamble:
to forget about responsibilities
to feel better when you feel depressed or sad
to fill your time when bored (especially if not working)
when you drink or use drugs
when you get angry with others - or yourself.
Or, you may have:
started gambling early – some people start as young as 7 or 8
never been able to control your gambling
one or both parents who are problem gamblers.
Should I stop gambling or try to control it?
The first thing is to decide to get help - you can then work out whether you are ready to stop or just want to control your gambling better. Many people just want to control their gambling, but then decide to stop completely.
Living with a problem gambler
Being married to or a partner of a problem gambler – or being their parent or child - is hard and can be distressing.
Your loved one will probably have tried to hide the size of the problem from you, while they have at the same time borrowed or stolen to pay off debts.
If, with the help of the 10 questions above, you can see that gambling is a problem for someone in your family, it's best to be honest with him or her about it. They need to know about the pain and trouble they are causing other people and that help is there for them.
If your gambling relative doesn't take any notice, you can get support for yourself from one of the services listed at the end of the leaflet. There are groups and individual sessions to support family members.
Problem gamblers are more likely than other people to:
have alcohol or drug problems
commit suicide out of desperation because of their feelings of being trapped by their debts
be separated or divorced
have committed a crime to support their gambling.
It's better to get help before you run into trouble.
Where can I get help?
All of the following provide ree support to help you cut down or stop gambling:
NHS: The CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic in London has doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, debt counsellors and family therapists with special experience in helping problem gamblers.
Gamcare - runs the national HelpLine and its online equivalent, the NetLine, to offer help and support for people with a gambling problem, their family and friends. GamCare also provides face-to-face online counselling in many parts of the UK.
The Gordon Association - a charity which provides treatment and housing for problem gamblers.
The 12 step meetings of Gamblers Anonymous.
Gamanon: groups for relatives of problem gamblers.
What sort of help is there?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Research has shown that CBT can:
reduce the number of days a person gambles
reduce the amount of money they lose
help a gambler to stay away from gambling once they have stopped.
How does CBT work? If you are a problem gambler, you will think differently from other people about your betting. You will tend to believe that:
you are more likely to win than you would expect by chance
in a game with random numbers, like roulette, certain numbers are more likely to come up than others
winning twice in a row means that you are on a 'winning streak' – so you bet larger and larger sums
you are more likely to win at a game of chance if you are familiar with it
certain rituals can bring you luck
having lost, you can somehow win back your losses by gambling more.
CBT is given in around 10 one-hour sessions. The sessions focus on these ways of thinking, but also on how you feel and behave when you want to bet or when you are gambling. CBT helps you to work out more helpful ways of thinking and behaving. A diary helps you to keep track of your improvement. In the months following treatment, follow-up CBT sessions in a group seem to help people stay away from gambling longer.
How does CBT compare with other treatments? We don’t know yet - there have not been enough large studies to be clear about this.
12 Step Programmes
This is an approach which assumes that a dependence on drink or gambling is a disease and that the best people to support you are those who have had similar experiences. Regular meetings are held in which people can share the problems they have had and the ways in which they have overcome them. They also have a 'buddy' system, where each member has another member whom they can contact if they feel that they are about to drink or gamble again. The 12 Step fellowship, Gamblers Anonymous, offers meetings throughout the UK and many problem gamblers find these meetings helpful. You may also need practical help:
Managing your debts
Dealing with family problems
Treat other psychological/psychiatric problems, e.g. depression.
No medication is licensed for the treatment of problem gambling in the UK but antidepressants can be prescribed to help with low mood.
What if I don’t get help?
About a third of problem gamblers will recover on their own without treatment and – about 2 in 3 will continue to have problems, which tend to get worse.
How to get help and when
Don’t wait until life does not seem worth living. If you get help, you will feel better and avoid many problems with your life and health.
You can refer yourself by calling or emailing the contacts below:
NHS: CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic: 1 Frith Street, London W1D 3HZ, Tel: 020 7534 6699; email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Gamcare: helpline 0845 6000 133
Gordon Moody Association: Tel: 01384 241 292
GA (Gamblers Anonymous): Tel: 020 7384 3040
GAM- ANON UK and Ireland: Tel: 08700 50 8880
American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of mental disorders (4th ed, text rev) Washington, DC.
British Gambling Prevalence Survey (2007). Gambling Commission, UK.
Black D et al (2003) Quality of life and family history in pathological gambling. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 191, 124-126.
Blaszczynsky AP et al (1991) A comparison of relapsed and non-relapsed abstinent pathological gamblers following behavioural treatment. British Journal of Addiction, 86, 1485-1489.
Griffiths MD (1990) The acquisition, development, and maintenance of fruit machine gambling in adolescents. Journal of Gambling Studies, 6, 193-204.
Ladouceur R et al (2002) Understanding and treating pathological gambling. New York, Wiley.
Petry N (2005) Pathological Gambling. American Psychological Association.
Shaffer HJ, Bilt JV and Hall MN (1999) Gambling, drinking, smoking and other health risk activities among casino employees. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 36, 365-378.
Wohl MJA et al (2002) The effects of near wins and near losses on self-perceived personal luck and subsequent gambling behaviour. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 39, 184-191.
(2007) National Survey of Gambling