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What Are Some Warning Signs of a Teen Gambling Problem?

How to spot a teen gambling problem, knowing which teens may be at greater risk to develop a problem and knowing what kinds of treatments can help a teen already dealing with a gambling problem

Since problem gamblers, both teenage and adult often lack the insight to recognize their own difficulties with gambling, it’s important that parents watch out for behaviors that could indicate the beginnings of trouble.

Warning Signs to Watch for Include:

  • A teen who talks about gambling a lot, and who knows a lot of gambling terminology or who carries gambling paraphernalia around, such as casino sheets or lottery tickets
  • Excessive and unexplained amounts of money on hand – or conversely, an insatiable need for money and difficult to explain personal debts
  • Talking about regretting gambling losses
  • Extreme money-raising behaviors; selling personal belongings, stealing or committing other criminal acts, frequently borrowing money
  • Emotional problems, frequent irritability, worried or stressed behaviors or sadness
  • A sudden change in eating and or sleeping habits
  • A sudden reduction in school performance/skipping school
  • A sudden change in friends or a withdrawal from activities that were recently enjoyed1

Are Some Teens at Greater Risk for Gambling Problems

Although it’s impossible to predict who might end up developing a problem with gambling, there are strong correlations between people who have certain conditions/traits and an increased risk of developing a gambling problem.

Conditions that seem to increase a teen’s risk of developing a gambling problem include:

  • Being involved with juvenile delinquency
  • Having low self esteem
  • Being a teen boy
  • Doing poorly in school, either academic troubles or conduct issues
  • Having suicidal thoughts or previous suicidal attempts
  • Weak familial relationships
  • Higher scores on measures of depression and or disassociation
  • Starting to gamble early, before the age of 10
  • Having a family member with a gambling problem or a substance abuse problem
  • The death or arrest of a loved one2

Teen Problem Gambling Treatment

When gambling becomes a problem, treatment is sometimes necessary and usually beneficial, especially as teens with gambling problems are also far more likely to get into legal, school and/or familial trouble, to use drugs or alcohol and to engage in other risky behaviors.

Your family pediatrician or another trusted health or mental health care worker can be a good resource for information about local gambling treatment options. Gambling treatments will vary depending on the needs of the individual but will often include some form of psychotherapy and may also include medications, such as anti depressants. Many people find the continued use of self help groups useful for sustained recovery.3

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