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Information about problem gambling

What is problem gambling?

Problem gambling, also known as compulsive gambling, gambling addiction or pathological gambling, is defined as:

frequent, repeated episodes of gambling that dominate the patient's life to the detriment of social, occupational, material, and family values and commitments (ICD-10).

In the psychiatric diagnosis manual DSM-5, gambling addiction is classified as an addiction disorder on par with a drug addiction.

Signs of problem gambling include the following:

You spend a lot of time thinking about gambling: gambling you’ve done in the past, gambling you’re planning to do in the future, getting money you can gamble with. You are unable to limit, control or stop your gambling despite several attempts. You feel a need to continuously increase the stakes to achieve the same level of excitement. You become restless or irritable when you are prevented from gambling. You lie about your gambling behaviour. You gamble to cope with mental issues.

How can problem gambling affect you mentally, physically and socially?

Mentally and physically

Problem gambling can lead to painful and difficult thoughts and feelings. Many people feel ashamed and guilty, making them keep their problems to themselves. The fear of other people discovering their gambling, fear of losing important relationships, financial difficulties and social isolation may feel overwhelming and can even lead to depression or anxiety. This may manifest itself in the form of an inner turmoil, restlessness, heart palpitations, sleeping difficulties and an inability to remain calm and/or calm down. You may also feel powerless, a sense of hopelessness and an inability to feel happy.

Inactivity, irregular eating patterns, a lack of sleep or irregular sleeping patterns may arise from problem gambling and a lack of mental well-being. This can have an exacerbating effect to the extent that it can end up having an impact on your physical health.

Collectively, these issues make it difficult to see solutions and take the practical steps needed to successfully gain control over your problems. It is important to remember that depression is a temporary condition, which affects your judgement. Reach out for help. A good first step is to confide in someone you trust.


Problem gambling can have social consequences related to a person’s job or studies. It can have a negative impact on interpersonal relationships and social circles and in some cases lead to social isolation. Most people who have developed a gambling addiction have been playing in secret, often over an extended period, without their friends and family realising what has been going on. The thought of revealing the extent of your problems with your friends and family is associated with fear, e.g. the fear of rejection. However, the vast majority of people find that their family becomes a positive and important source of support once they are made aware of the problems.

Gambling problems: Some facts

  • Many problem gamblers run into financial difficulties and experience problems with their friends, colleagues and family.
  • Health ailments such as alcohol abuse, insomnia, restlessness and depression are more prevalent in ‘at risk’ gamblers and problem gamblers than in the general population.
  • 3.2% of people in Norway gamble so much that it can create problems for them.
  • It is particularly gambling through online casino and bingo games that people struggle to keep under control.
  • Many people who pursue high-stakes gambling often prefer online poker games and various betting/tipping games.
  • Many people who gamble a lot have exaggerated expectations about their chances of winning.
  • More men than women are at-risk gamblers or problem gamblers.
  • Gambling problems are associated with an increased risk of suicide.