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Official figures show that around 430,000 people in the UK have a serious gambling problem.

The anticipation and thrill of gambling can create a natural high that can become addictive and, with the internet now making gambling more accessible, there is a higher danger of gambling behaviours getting out of hand and leading to financial, emotional and relationship problems.

There’s often a common link between gambling and other addictions, particularly alcohol abuse. Rates of depression and attempted suicide among gambling addicts are consistently higher than the national average. This is not surprising because people who already feel depressed and empty may try to create a “buzz” by addictive behaviours, but the addiction only causes more problems in the end. Whether you bet on sports, scratch cards, poker, or fruit machines — in a casino or online — problem gambling can strain relationships, interfere with work and lead to severe financial problems. With the right help, gambling addiction can be overcome. The first step is recognising and acknowledging the problem.

Understanding gambling addiction and problem gambling

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling, can involve an emotional impulse that is hard to resist. Compulsive gamblers can keep gambling whether they’re up or down, broke or flush, happy or depressed. Like any addiction, compulsive gambling can be reduced with a range of psychological and therapeutic approaches (including cognitive-behavioural therapy), so feel safe in the knowledge that there is a way out of gambling addiction, even if you may feel that you have nowhere to turn.

Gambling can be a problem, however, even without being totally out of control. Problem gambling is any gambling behaviour that interferes with your life. This can entail a preoccupation with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences. Problem gambling can be helped in the same way as addictive gambling.

Specialised addiction services that focus mainly on substance misuse will often also help with gambling problems. They use similar approaches to deal with gambling addictions to those that they use with substance misuse.

Get help if you think you have a problem

Gamblers Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous uses the same twelve-step approach as Alcoholics Anonymous and also has a support group for relatives called Gam-Anon.

CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic
If you live in England or Wales and are over 16, you can refer yourself to the only specialist NHS clinic for problem gamblers. For more information, visit the clinic’s website.

The main support organisation in the UK is GamCare, which runs a national telephone helpline and provides face-to-face counselling.


A support and information site run by GamCare specifically for young people aged 12 – 18

Gamblers Anonymous
Gamblers Anonymous uses the same twelve-step approach as Alcoholics Anonymous and also has a support group for relatives called Gam-Anon.

Could someone you know have a problem?

GamCare: supporting a problem gambler
Read stories from people who support a friend or relative with a gambling problem, and share your own experiences.

Help and support if  you’re affected by someone else’s gambling problem, including how to recognise the signs and where to find your nearest meeting.

 Amended and accredited by Martin Seager CPsychol AFBPsS 2nd Feb 2014


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