There are three distinct stages people with gambling problems go through before they "hit bottom" and realize they need help. Please don’t wait. Talk to someone now.

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Phase 1 – Winning

Gambling begins as a social activity. It seems fun, normal. During this phase, people:

  • Sometimes win large amounts of money
  • Feel invincible, so they bet bigger amounts
  • Bet even more to maintain the excitement level

But gambling isn't always about money. Problem gamblers like the excitement of gambling, the dream of winning big, or the escape from everyday problems or stresses.

Phase 2 – Losing

This is where the real trouble begins. Gamblers feel like their activity is under control—in reality it’s not. During this phase, people:

  • Seek more action
  • Believe they can quit whenever they want to – but see no need to quit
  • Gamble to win back what they've lost
  • Gamble and then lie about it
  • Hide their losses
  • Take out loans so they can continue
  • Break their promises to quit
  • Borrow from family and friends
  • Have relationships that begin to suffer


Phase 3 – Desperation

Problem gamblers go through this state just before they hit rock bottom. During the phase, people:

  • Feel desperation and hopelessness as losses continue to mount
  • Cling to their fantasy of winning -- hoping to make everything well again
  • Finally realize that they can't win, but they keep gambling anyway
  • Have little concern for the people around them
  • Steal, write bad checks, or commit illegal activities to finance their gambling

Some problem gamblers attempt suicide before they seek treatment