Effects of Gambling Addiction

The effects of gambling addiction are not as straightforward as some people think.  The following are some of effects broken down by category.  Financial ones are the most obvious of course, however, the emotional and intellectual impacts can be much more impactful than people know of or ever even consider.  The spirit of this page is simply to educate.  Whether you're reading this as a gambler, or a loved one of a problem gambler seeking to better understand gambling addiction, it will hopefully better prepare you in your handling of the various facets of this difficult addiction.

Financial Effects of Gambling Addiction
  • Poor or no cash flow for daily living and expenses; can lead to:
    • Loss of one's home or other assets (ex. cars) via foreclosure, repossession or forced sale
  • Nagging or even harassing phone calls from creditors or loan sharks; can lead to:
    • Further loss of financial stability, stress, fear, physical danger (if unscrupulous loan sharks are involved)
  • Depletion of long term savings; can lead to:
    • Loss of 401K (U.S)/RRSP (Canada) resulting in delayed or inability to retire
    • Loss of college/university savings resulting in increased burden on family finances or directly on children, or inability to seek higher education
  • Poor credit; can lead to:
    • Inability to refinance or purchase a home or get a car loan
    • Requirement for large cash deposits for rental properties
    • Cancellation of credit cards, resulting in the need to live on cash (not necessarily a bad thing!  Though credit cards are often required for reservations, and helpful for emergencies.)

Emotional Effects of Gambling Addiction
  • Loss of trust in a relationship that extends beyond trust to handle finances
  • Loss of intimacy due to stress and a feeling of insecurity about the future
  • Loss of the household emotional support system due to degraded lines of communication

Other Effects of Gambling Addiction
  • Degraded or loss of a healthy core family unit, resulting in developmental issues for young children
  • Lack of role models for a healthy marriage/relationship resulting in impacts to future relationships for oneself as well as for one's children
  • Financial stress can lead to theft or fraud (ex. false insurance claims), which can lead to incarceration (i.e. jail!)
  • Generally not feeling safe in one's life and relationship

As you can see, the effects of problem gambling can reach deeply into the life of the gambler as well as the family.  Experts say that addiction is not an individual issue, but rather a family problem.  And note that this list is far from comprehensive!  The combined impact of all of these effects can actually result in physical illness with long-term health problems, including both physiological and mental health issues.  The point of this discussion is not to scare you, but rather to ensure that people seeking to better understand the impacts of gambling addiction don't brush it off as something that can just go away without treatment.


Lastly, although the financial impacts are not only the most obvious, but also the most discussed, I feel that it's important to understand that recovering from financial loss or devastation is the easiest part to overcome.  It's the other emotional/intellectual effects that are far more complex to address during the healing process, and will typically last far longer than any financial issues.  In other words, recovering from a gambling addiction problem in your family far transcends the financial impacts, so be cautious not to make that the focus of attention, nor ignore the other aspects when the financial strain is ultimately relieved or solved.

Gambling Addiction Help - For loved ones of problem gamblers to share YOUR story

Compulsive Gambling Help - For gamblers in recovery to share YOUR story

Help for Gambling Addiction - For family members


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