Gamblers seeking treatment: Why haven't they come earlier?

Hermano Tavares, Silvia S. Martins, Monica L. Zilberman, Nady El-Guebaly

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

46 Scopus citations


Objectives: The process of seeking treatment is gathering increasing attention in the addiction field. Few studies have addressed the reasons precluding gamblers from seeking treatment earlier, even in the face of cumulative problems. This study tested the combination of four hypotheses as potential treatment-delaying factors: gamblers resist stopping gambling before they have recovered previous losses; financial hardship causes lack of resources for treatment (e.g., money, transportation, time); shame and secrecy; and lack of readiness to engage in the change processes. Methods: To evaluate the delaying factors, a "Reasons for Delaying Treatment Scale" was developed. The score on this scale was compared with the number of years elapsed between the first gambling problem and the first treatment attempt, controlling for severity and cohort effects. Eighty-four pathologic gamblers were interviewed. Results: The total score on reasons for delaying treatment was significantly related to the number of years of problem gambling prior to treatment. Shame and secrecy, and attempts at financial recovery were the best predictors of treatment delay. The period of problem gambling was shorter for the younger cohorts as they experienced problems at a time when treatment availability was greater. Conclusions: It is concluded that aside from focusing on public awareness and treatment availability, future awareness campaigns should also address gamblers' feelings of isolation, and illusions about overcoming financial problems through gambling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)65-69
Number of pages5
JournalAddictive Disorders and their Treatment
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Gambling
  • Help-seeking
  • Scale
  • Treatment
  • Treatment delay

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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