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June 28, 2024

Problem Gambling: Education, Awareness, and Resources

by Olivia Meyerhoffer, LCSW-A, LCAS-A

With the recent legalization of sports betting in North Carolina in March of 2024- you may have found yourself asking: How far is too far?

Gambling dates back thousands of years. What once was considered religious or ceremonial functions in Greco-Roman times has transformed into a multi-faceted recreational activity that is enjoyed by people of all walks of life. The expansion of gambling in the United States has spanned years of corruption, prohibition, and regulation. Playing games of chance for money can be a harmless leisure activity for many. However, for some, it evolves into a destructive habit with harmful consequences.

What is “Problem Gambling”?

Problem gambling, also known as compulsive gambling or gambling addiction, is a condition that disrupts various aspects of a person’s life including their mental health, relationships, and financial stability. Problem gambling is the uncontrollable urge to gamble despite negative consequences in a person’s life. Individuals often experience a cycle of winning, losing, and trying to win back losses, which can lead to a significant emotional and financial toll.

The National Council on Problem Gambling reports that 2 million (1%) of U.S. adults are estimated to experience gambling addiction in a given year. Another 4 million to 6 million (2-3%) would be considered problem gamblers not meeting the full criteria for pathological gambling but still experiencing problems due to their gambling.

Impacts of Problem Gambling

Anxiety and Depression: The stress of financial problems and the guilt associated with gambling can lead to severe anxiety and depression. The constant worry about money and the consequences of one’s actions creates a pervasive sense of hopelessness.

Shame and Guilt: Many problem gamblers feel intense shame and guilt about their behavior, which can lead to social withdrawal and isolation. This emotional burden makes it difficult for them to seek help or talk about their struggles.

Relationship Strain: Gambling addiction can put a significant strain on personal relationships. Trust issues, financial deceit, and neglect of responsibilities can lead to conflicts and breakdowns in relationships with family and friends.

Work and Academic Performance: The preoccupation with gambling can affect one’s performance at work or school. Frequent absences, lack of focus, and declining productivity are common among those struggling with this addiction.

Financial Instability: The financial consequences of problem gambling can be devastating. Accumulating debt, depleting savings, and even resorting to illegal activities to fund gambling habits can lead to severe economic instability.

Seeking Help for Problem Gambling

Recognizing the signs of problem gambling is the first step towards recovery. There are many supportive resources available to help those experiencing problem gambling.

Support Groups

Groups like Gamblers Anonymous offer a supportive community where individuals can share their experiences and receive encouragement from others who understand their struggles.

Gamblers Anonymous (GA) is a peer-led mutual aid support group for individuals who struggle with compulsive gambling or gambling disorder. The primary goal of gamblers anonymous is to help individuals recover from the devastating effects of gambling addiction through peer support, education, and development of effective coping strategies to curb impulsive behavior. Individuals and recovery providers can access their local Gamblers Anonymous support group by visiting the GA website at

Self-Help Strategies

Setting strict limits on time and money spent on gambling, finding alternative activities, and being mindful of triggers can help manage gambling urges.

NC Problem Gambling Program (NCPGP)

North Carolina began providing prevention and treatment services relating to the area of problem gambling as a legislative mandate when the North Carolina Education Lottery was created in 2005.

  • 24/7/365 Toll-free Helpline
  • Call: 877-718-5543
  • Text: “” to 53342
  • Visit:

Professional Help

Consulting with mental health professionals, such as counselors, therapists, or psychiatrists can provide a structured and supportive approach to overcoming gambling addiction.

By seeking help and employing effective strategies, those struggling with gambling addiction can regain control of their lives and embark on a path to recovery. Remember, reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness.

If gambling is more than a game for you or family member or friend, help is available. Avance Care Behavioral Health offers mental health services delivered by licensed providers who specialize in addiction that are available to partner with you on your journey to recovery. If you are interested in learning more about therapy, contact our Behavioral Health team at 919.237.1337.


  • Gamblers Anonymous. (2024).
  • National Council on Problem Gambling. What Is Problem Gambling? (2023). Retrieved from
  • NCDHHS Problem Gambling. (n.d.).

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