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What If Someone I Know Is a Compulsive Gambler?

Take this short quiz developed by Gamblers Anonymous to find out if you may be living with a compulsive gambler:

  1. Do you find yourself haunted by bill collectors?
  2. Is the person in question often away from home for long, unexplained periods of time?
  3. Do you feel that the person cannot be trusted with money?
  4. Does the person promise faithfully to stop gambling; beg, plead for another chance, yet gamble again and again?
  5. Does he or she borrow money to gamble with or to pay gambling debts?
  6. Have you noticed a personality change in the gambler as his or her gambling progresses?
  7. Have you come to the point of hiding money needed for living expenses, knowing that you and the rest of the family may go without food and clothing if you do not?
  8. Do you search the gambler’s clothing or go through his wallet or her purse when the opportunity presents itself, or otherwise check on the person’s activities?
  9. Does the gambler hide money?
  10. Does the gambler sometimes lie compulsively, avoid any discussion of debts, or refuse to face realities of the situation?
  11. Does the gambler use guilt induction as a method of shifting responsibility for the gambling upon you?
  12. Do you attempt to anticipate the gambler’s moods, or try to control the person’s life?
  13. Do you feel that your life together is a nightmare?

The simple and straightforward approach to letting someone know you are concerned is most often helpful. Yet, it can sound easier to do than it really is. Not everyone will be thankful that someone cares enough to share his concern. None of us can control what a person says or does in reaction to what we say. But we can control what we say, how we say it and where and when we talk to a person we are concerned about. While there is no foolproof way to share a concern with another person, the following process has worked well for many people.

Read through these ideas recommended by Gamblers Anonymous and try them out the next time you want to tell a friend that you are concerned about something he is doing.

Do’s and Dont’s for Loved Ones of Gamblers


  • Utilize the support of others with similar problems.
  • Explain compulsive gambling to the children.
  • Recognize your spouse’s good qualities.
  • Remain calm when speaking to your spouse about his behavior and its consequences.
  • Let your spouse know that you are seeking help for your own sake because of the gambling’s effect on you.
  • Understand the need for Gamblers Anonymous and other treatment for compulsive gambling despite the time away from home it involves.
  • Ask for control of family finances.


  • Nag, preach or lecture.
  • Create the impression that you are somehow a better person than the gambler.
  • Make threats or ultimatums unless you intend to carry them out.
  • Participate in gambling activities with the gambler.
  • Exclude the gambler from family life and activities.
  • Expect immediate recovery, or that all issues will be resolved with the cessation of gambling.
  • Bail out the gambler.
  • Cover up or deny the existence of the problem.

Your Teenager

Researchers have found that teenagers experiment earlier and get hooked into gambling much more quickly today. Many young people start gambling before age 11, earlier than they experiment with alcohol or drugs. Some researchers believe that gambling may even be a gateway to other harmful behaviors.

Compulsive gambling has been called the hidden disease because it is not detectable with a blood or breath test. Compulsive gamblers look no different than their peers, and they develop amazing techniques to hide their addiction.

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Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

It is thought by some that arcade video game playing in some adolescents may develop into a behavior that resembles a gambling addiction. Parents should be alert that such behavior may become compulsive and appear like gambling or an addiction.

What If Someone I Know Is a Compulsive Gambler?

Scott Teitelbaum, MD

APA Reference
Teitelbaum, S. (2020). What If Someone I Know Is a Compulsive Gambler?. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 14 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 14 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.