Identifying a problem

There are several key considerations for health and welfare professionals when identifying and assessing clients who may be experiencing problems with gambling.

Both people experiencing gambling problems and the others they affect will have a range of related emotional and physical stressors and may consequently be seeing other help services providers.

These clients might not have connected their gambling to these other problems. For example, clients may think they need to gamble as the only possible solution to their financial problems or as the only way of escaping emotional problems.

This means health and welfare workers outside of Gambler's Help services may be the first port of call for people seeking help with problem gambling. By understanding and recognising the symptoms, impacts and dynamics of problem gambling you will be better equipped to offer support.

Common signs

Some of the common issues people with gambling problems will present to health and help providers with are:

  • relationship breakdown (in particular domestic violence)
  • financial difficulty
  • stress
  • depression
  • health issues related to stress

The reluctance of many clients to talk about a gambling problem can be due to a number of factors, including:

  • shame and embarrassment
  • a lack of hope that their gambling can change based on a history of unsuccessful attempts at self change
  • a fear of being judged
  • they do not recognise gambling as the main issue
  • they recognise the problems caused by their gambling but do not feel able or ready to tackle the issue

If you think your client has a gambling problem

Health and social welfare workers outside the Gambler's Help services are often the first port of call for people seeking help with problem gambling. As a health and social welfare professional, you can play a crucial role in:

  • identifying clients with gambling problems
  • offering advice and support
  • referring clients to a specialist problem gambling service
  • providing advice and support to the families and friends of problem gamblers

By understanding and recognising the symptoms, impacts and dynamics of problem gambling you will be better equipped to:

  • effectively assess your client's problem
  • make appropriate treatment or referral interventions

Co-presenting and co-morbidity issues

Problems with gambling may be just one factor within a complex array of interpersonal, intrapersonal and health issues experienced by your client.

Typically, problem gambling does not occur in isolation. It may arise from (and give rise to) a range of other co-presenting and co-morbid issues, including:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • alcohol and drug issues
  • ill-health
  • domestic violence
  • the stress of caring for elderly or disabled family members
  • homelessness
  • financial hardship
  • legal problems
  • unemployment
  • relationship breakdown

How to identify a person with a problem with gambling

The best way to identify a problem gambler or affected other is to ask them about gambling. 

This gives permission for the client to talk about gambling in a non-judgmental and professional way.

Triggers you may identify that make you ask about gambling include:

Behavioural signs

Your client:

  • spends a lot of time in gambling venues or on the computer
  • has stopped doing things he or she previously enjoyed
  • complains about changes in their patterns of sleep, eating or sex
  • neglects self-care, work, school or family tasks
  • uses alcohol or other drugs more often
  • neglects personal or parental responsibilities

Emotional signs

Your client:

  • feels guilty about mood swings, anger or frustration vented at their family or friends
  • complains about unexplained stress, anxiety or sleeplessness
  • complains of boredom and restlessness seems depressed or suicidal

Financial/legal signs

Your client:

  • frequently seeks unexplained emergency financial assistance
  • has ongoing financial problems that cannot be logically explained
  • seems to have a bare house (very little food, no utilities, little furniture)
  • has legal problems related to gambling

Health signs


Your client has complained about stress-related health problems, such as:

  • headaches
  • stomach and bowel problems
  • difficulty sleeping
  • overeating, or loss of appetite.
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