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When is gambling a problem?

A large majority of adults in Canada report that they gamble. Although most do so responsibly and without problems, about 3.2 per cent experience moderate to severe problems related to gambling.

Gambling is problematic when:

  • it compromises, disrupts or damages personal, family or vocational pursuits
  • it exists as a "pattern" of behaviour
  • a person continues to gamble despite negative consequences.

It is the pattern of behaviour that is particularly significant in determing whether a gambling problem exists. Although people who gamble regularly can often lose more than they intended, how often they gamble or how much they lose are not always a good measure of gambling problems. Some people can afford to lose money, and do not suffer financially as a result of their gambling. It is continued gambling despite experiencing negative consequences that suggests the existence of a gambling problem.

Problem gambling can affect all aspects of a person's life, including:

  • work, school or other activities
  • mental and physical health
  • finances
  • reputation
  • relationships with family and friends.

Gambling problems often have adverse health effects on individuals, their families and communities. People generally do not make the connection between their health problems and their gambling, although they may present in a primary care setting with secondary symptoms such as depression, anxiety, sleep disturbances, headaches or other somatic symptoms associated with stress.