Larissa Orloff, MD, is a resident physician in Psychiatry at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information on this topic, talk to your physician or call Banner’s Behavioral Health Helpline at (602) 254-HELP (4357).
Question: How do you know if someone is addicted to gambling and how can they get help?
Answer: Casinos, lottery, sports betting, or a game of poker between friends; there is no doubt about it, gambling is a popular form of entertainment today. And, while most can participate casually, it is estimated that about 1 percent of the U.S. population may suffer from pathologic gambling.
Someone is considered “addicted” to gambling if they are frequently preoccupied with gambling, need to progressively gamble with higher amounts of money, have difficulty cutting back, and become irritable or anxious when trying to do so. The behavior may become so severe that personal relationships or jobs may be compromised, the individual begins to borrow money to make up for gambling losses, or some may even turn to crime to get more money for gambling. It is not uncommon that family members and friends don’t know a loved one is addicted to gambling. A pathologic gambler may go to extensive lengths to cover up their behavior either by hiding financial losses or borrowing money to keep gambling or to pay back debt.
Mental health professionals have not discovered why one person and not another becomes addicted to gambling, however, some groups of people may be at higher risk than others. These include people who gamble to cope with stress or escape problems such as loneliness or marital problems, and those who struggle with drug or alcohol abuse, depression, or other types of mental illness.
Untreated pathologic gambling can be devastating not only financially, but damaging to one’s relationships, physical and mental health. If you are concerned about someone you suspect may have a gambling problem, encourage them to see their doctor for a thorough evaluation and support. For a gamblers anonymous meeting directory and general resource information, visit www.gamblersanonymous.org. The national hotline number is 1(888)-GA-HELS or 1(888) 424-3577.
-Dr. Orloff is a resident physician in Psychiatry at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information on this topic, talk to your physician or call Banner’s Behavioral Health Helpline at (602) 254-HELP (4357).