If you have gambling syndrome, you cannot control your gambling for money and it affects relationships, finances, and work. Gambling syndrome is also usually called gambling addiction and is considered a psychiatric condition similar to alcohol and drug syndrome. There are various kinds of support and help to be had both for those who have gambling syndrome and for those affected by gambling.

The gambling addict often believes that the only way to raise money to pay off debts is to play more. It is common to borrow money to continue playing. Sometimes, continued gambling is a successful strategy as every player wins money every now and then. But unfortunately, those who have gambling syndrome usually do not stop playing when they have won enough money to pay the debts. It usually ends with the winnings wasted. Some who have gambling syndrome do not play primarily to win money but to dampen negative emotions.

Symptoms of gambling addiction

If you are gambling for money and have a behavior that matches at least four of the points below and it has been going on for a long time, it may be a sign of gambling syndrome. It can also be a sign that you are in the risk zone of becoming a gambler.

  • You are constantly thinking about games: previous gaming experiences, next games or thinking about how to raise money for the next game.
  • In order to maintain the tension, larger sums are required to pay for.
  • You have failed several times to limit gambling or to stop playing.
  • You become restless or annoyed when you try to limit or stop your gambling.
  • You play to avoid thinking about problems or to get away from anxiety or depression.
  • You return to games when you lose money.
  • You want to take revenge for the loss.
  • You lie to hide how much you play, no matter who asks.
  • You have committed crimes to get money for gambling: for example, theft, embezzlement or forgery.
  • You have compromised or lost any important personal relationship, employment, an opportunity for education or career due to gambling.
  • You trust that others can arrange money to solve an economic crisis that has arisen from gambling.

Similarities with alcohol and drug addiction

Gambling syndrome in a more serious form has similarities to being dependent on alcohol or drugs. More than two out of a hundred people many countries have gambling syndrome or gambling problems and another four out of a hundred are considered to be at risk of developing it.

Risk play induces addiction

The types of games that are considered to be risky games, that is, more easily induce an addiction, are fast games with a short time between effort and results or games where skill can increase the chance of winning.

Slots, such as Jack Vegas, casino games, and games conducted online, especially slots and internet poker, are the most addictive.

The gamble gives a kick

Those who have been affected by gambling problems or gambling syndrome usually say that they are playing to deaf emotions such as anxiety and depression. They also usually say that gambling is exciting and gives a kick that is difficult to get otherwise.

Mental or social problems are often related to gambling problems

People with gambling syndrome often have other mental or social problems as well. It is quite common to have high alcohol consumption, to feel depressed, to have anxiety about various things, to be unemployed, to have relationship problems and so on. These circumstances can, of course, aggravate gambling or make it harder to get out of their gambling.

What can I do for myself?

One way to try to take control of gaming is to keep a game diary. In the journal you write down if you have played, what made you play: what triggered the need to play, how much you played for and for how long. Also write down how you felt before, during and after the game. It can also be good to write if you haven’t played and how it felt. Write down tips on how you managed to avoid playing.

The diary can be helpful in understanding what starts the game suck and what you can do to avoid getting into these situations.

Establish goals

It is important to set realistic goals. In the beginning, it may be about setting goals in the short term: not playing the next day. Gradually you can extend the goals. 

Find something other than the game to focus on

It is also good if you can engage in other activities that you find fun and meaningful when you are trying to gain control over the gambling. Finding something that provides satisfaction and removes your focus from gaming is one of the most important steps to reduce gambling addiction.


Relatives are important as support if you are trying to stop playing. It can also be very helpful to meet others who have had the same problem. There are fellow and support associations in different places in the country that you can contact.

It is not uncommon to change one addiction to another. Therefore, it is important to be attentive so that you do not seek alcohol, drugs or anything else that can be addictive when you try to stop playing.

Turn off internet games

You can turn off certain sites from your browser. A more drastic but common measure among internet gamers with gambling problems is to simply dispose of their computer or smartphone to prevent further gambling. It may feel difficult to be without a connection to the network, but sometimes it is the only solution.

Ask for advice

You can contact the national support line for gambling addiction and their relatives, which is run by the Stockholm County Council.

As a player, you can turn to the guide no matter where you live with your questions and get support and advice. Those who respond to the guideline have extensive experience in helping players. The conversations are conducted on the basis of a model in which the advisors try to motivate the player to change.

Many of the telephone calls to the support line are from relatives. The support line has a great deal of experience in supporting relatives and giving concrete advice that can help the relatives move on.

The phone number is 020 – 81 91 00. You can also go to stodlinjen.se

support Associations

Around the country, there are a number of support associations where both gambling addicts and their relatives can apply. Some of the associations are organized in the  Spelberoendes national association which is a non-profit association.

When should I seek care?

It is important to seek help if you no longer have control over your playing. This is especially true if gambling and the pursuit of money for gaming dominate existence. You run the risk of ending up in conflicts with relatives or criminals to raise money for debts or to play more. If you need help for your own part or in the case of someone related, you can contact a health care center or social services in your municipality for advice and support. You can also apply to a psychiatric outpatient clinic.

You can seek care at any healthcare center you want throughout the country. You also have the opportunity to have a regular doctor’s contact at the health center.  

Treatment of gambling addiction

There are various forms of treatment for gambling syndrome. So-called motivational talk and cognitive behavioral therapy, KBT, which is conducted individually or in groups in outpatient care or via the internet, have proven to be effective methods.

In many countries, there are various treatment centers that offer care to those who have gambling syndrome. These activities have not been evaluated by independent researchers and the effect of the treatment is unclear.

Being close to someone who has gambling syndrome

Here are some points to keep in mind if you are related to someone with gambling syndrome:

  • It is not your fault that the person playing is addicted.
  • You are not responsible for the person playing, but you are responsible for the well-being of your own and any children.
  • Talk to the person playing and tell calmly and objectively how you feel, what you intend to do and that the gaming behavior is not okay.
  • Protect your finances by making it difficult for anyone who is gambling to access your money.
  • If there is a letter from the Kronofogdemyndighet, contact them immediately for help.
  • Do not lend money to a person with gambling syndrome, not even when the person promises to quit after the debt is paid off.
  • The gambling addict must take responsibility for repaying debts himself.
  • If you want to help financially, make sure to pay for things that increase the chance that the player can quit playing. It can, for example, be bus tickets, gasoline, food, and clothing.
  • Offer help but set a limit on how far you can go to help.
  • Do not accept any form of abuse, whether physical or mental.
  • Seek help.

Ehtisham Nadeem

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