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Introduction and Causes
Treatment and Self-help
Introduction and Causes

What is pathological gambling?

Gambling is a kind of pastime for many people. About 90% of men in Hong Kong have taken part in some sort of gambling, such as horseracing, mahjong, card games, lottery and various other casino games. To a certain extent, gambling seems to be a part of our culture. However, when a person's gambling behaviour becomes out of control and characterized by a continual need to gamble, even when the person experiences difficulties and distress from gambling, he may be suffering from pathological gambling.

Health Alert

Pathological gambling can affect people and people around him in many different ways. Some common effects of gambling include:

  • Marital conflicts
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Violence
  • Unemployment
  • Financial difficulties, debts or bankruptcy
  • Criminal activities
  • Self-harm and suicide

What are the early warning signs?

The following signs may signal that someone may be developing or have developed a problem with gambling:

  • Go or think about gambling everyday.
  • Frequent the gambling venues alone and more often.
  • Stay longer at the venue than intended.
  • Spend more and more time on gambling than other favourite activities.
  • Lose time from work or school due to gambling.
  • Spend the last dollar on gambling.
  • Chase the losses by continuing to gamble.
  • Argue with family or friends over money matters.
  • Not talking honestly to anyone about the frequency and the amount of money spent on gambling.
  • Feel depressed or frustrated and have problems in sleeping because of gambling.
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How can I prevent it?

The best way to prevent your gambling behaviour from getting out of control is to recognize the early warning signs of pathological gambling and to seek assistance whereas appropriate.

Who Else Can Help?

Social Welfare Department
Hotline: 2343 2255

Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Even Centre: 2827 4321

Caritas Addicted Gamblers Counseling Center : 2499 7828

Methodist Centre
Counseling Hotline for Problem Gambling: 2520 4933
(Monday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm, recorded message at other time)

Industrial Evangelistic Fellowship Rehabilitation Centre for Problem Gamblers
Hotline: 2748 7202
(Monday to Friday 9:30 am to 9:30 pm)

Zion Social Service
Counseling Hotline for Problem Gambling: 2344 8989
(Monday to Saturday 10 am to 9:30 pm)

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Treatment and Self-help

What is the treatment?

Treatment for pathological gambling includes counseling to raise self-management ability (see How can I help myself). A good counselor can help you to work out how best to manage your gambling problem. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe medications to control the feeling of anxiety or depression caused by compulsive gambling.


Health Tips

Remember: Understanding your gambling problem, taking steps to ensure your financial security, and getting professional help are key elements to control your gambling behaviour.


How can I help myself?

Gambling is a habitual behaviour. Breaking it may be hard but it is possible if you are determined. You could try out the following self-management measures:

  • Avoid the venue- Find and substitute other interesting things you can do during the times when you tend to gamble.
  • Set a limit- Stop gambling when you hit the limit no matter you are winning or losing.
  • Control the cash flow- Limit the availability of cash and protect your earnings by e.g. arranging to have daily withdrawal limit on your bank account, setting up joint account that requires two signatures, paying bills electronically, or putting a "no more credit" notation on your credit accounts.
  • Manage stress- Take regular exercise (e.g. jogging) and learn some relaxation methods (such as meditation, yoga) or do things that enable you to relax (e.g. listen to music, hanging out with friends) to reduce boredom and ease your nerve.
  • Keep a record- Diary may help you to understand your gambling activities, identify trends and patterns. For example, you go gambling when you feel bored or depressed, when you have cash on hand, or when you need money. The recordings can help you to look for different ways to cope with your desires.

If you want to discuss your gambling problem but you do not feel comfortable talking about it in front of others or with anyone you know, you can try telephone counseling services which can give you opportunity to discuss things anonymously. Telephone counseling has worked well for many men.

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