What is 'problem gambling'?

Problem gambling is behaviour related to gambling which causes harm to the gambler and those around them. This may includes family, friends and others who know them or care for them, such as those they work with. If someone is struggling to control their gambling behaviour it can cause stress, depression, anxiety, they may fall behind at work and worry about money. If someone’s gambling is causing any of these effects, it is considered problem gambling.

What is a problem gambler?

Problem gambling can affect anyone. It can happen at any age, to males or females, and to people from any ethnic background. Studies have shown that you are more likely to develop a problem if you have a family history of problem gambling and if you started gambling at an early age. Problem gambling has been called the 'hidden addiction', meaning that unlike other addictions such as alcohol or drug addiction, the physical effects of the problem are very difficult to see. You are unlikely to know that someone has a gambling problem unless they tell you.

What causes problem gambling?

No one knows what causes problem gambling. Although there are relationships found between family gambling behaviour, age of onset of gambling, and experiencing a big win early in their gambling career, it is not possible to determine cause and effect. This is further complicated by the fact that problem gambling is rarely found in isolation. Problem gamblers often also experience other problems, such as alcohol or drug addiction, alongside. This is known as co-morbidity. Genetic studies have found inheritable risk factors which support the notion that people may be genetically predisposed to develop impulsivity or addictive disorders. It is likely that developing a gambling problem is due to the interaction of various biological, psychological and social factors.