Is a Loved One Addicted to Gambling? 5 Tips for Family, Friends

Unhealthy behavior, the kind that fractures relationships and lives, comes in many forms; one of those forms is compulsive gambling. This brain condition is a progressive disorder that is diagnosable and treatable. Experts estimate more than 5 million Americans meet criteria for gambling addiction—and if you love one of those gamblers, you understand how seriously it impacts financial, emotional, and even physical well-being. Here are tips for addicted gamblers’ friends and family.

  1. Start a conversation.
    Approach the problem gambler in a calm manner. Avoid launching this discussion when you and your loved one are in an argument. Likewise, adopting a preaching tone is rarely effective and often pushes a loved one further away. Explain your concerns by using “I” statements, like “I’m scared we’ll be evicted because there’s no rent money.” For professional guidance that may help shepherd him or her into treatment, contact Compass Mark for a referral to a qualified interventionist in the Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA area.
  2. Safeguard your money.
    Make sure you and the rest of the family has the money it needs for housing, food, and other expenses. Separate your finances—that may include depositing your paycheck into an account solely held by you. Learn more by reading Living with a Problem Gambler-Tips for Protecting Your Finances.
  3. Talk with a nonprofit debt counselor.
    If your finances have been tied to the gambler’s, you may be receiving collection calls as well. Consult a nonprofit debt counselor so he or she can help you sort out the money situation and create a doable plan to repay debts.
  4. Be patient.
    Healing from problem gambling is rarely a straight path; as with other addictions, relapses can and do happen. Expect that overcoming gambling addiction may take numerous attempts before long-term recovery can begin.
  5. Find support for yourself.
    Living with a loved one’s addiction is emotionally draining. Nurture your own wellness by talking with a professional therapist or counselor. He or she will help you identify and address your emotions, which may include anger, guilt, frustration, embarrassment, or disappointment. What’s more, a therapist can help you learn ways to avoid enabling a gambler’s destructive behavior. A problem gambler’s children will also benefit from counseling to help them work through emotions in a healthy way.

NOTE: If the problem gambler becomes abusive to you or anyone else in the family, including children or elderly parents, reach out for help immediately:

Compass Mark is here to help you. For compulsive gambling intervention referrals, treatment information, or prevention resources, contact us at 717-299-2831. Our guidance is confidential.


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