What to Do if Someone You Love is a Problem Gambler

Finding help for someone with addiction typically isn’t something we learned in school. So what should you do if you know someone struggling to control their gambling behavior? Here’s what to do if a person you love has a gambling problem.

Learn more about the condition.

Gambling addiction is an actual disorder rooted in the brain—it’s not a matter of having “no willpower” or being a “bad” person. Numerous studies have found that people with problem gambling have some brain dysfunctions similar to those with drug addiction. For example, problem gamblers and substance abusers both show weakened brain pathways that play a role in impulse control and decision making.

To learn if your loved one is at risk for gambling addiction, take the quiz on our home page.

Understand that the gambler will need professional help to stop. 

This is a progressive disorder, which means that if not treated, it worsens over time. That progression time frame is different for everyone; however some evidence suggests women may transition to gambling addiction faster than men.

As the addiction takes hold, problem gamblers may spiral into despair because of their circumstances, which often stay hidden from others until the situation becomes overwhelming. This increases the risk for developing clinical depression or attempting suicide.

Since the condition worsens, it’s critical that the problem gambler seek help sooner rather than later. This is especially true for senior gamblers; they have less time to recover financially from the economic toll this addiction takes.

Long-term recovery from gambling addiction is often supported with a combination of treatments, including talk therapy, lifestyle changes, stress management techniques, and self-help groups, like Gamblers Anonymous.

Take control of your own finances.

If your money is linked to the problem gambler’s finances, take steps to separate accounts so the gambler cannot access the money you need to provide for yourself and your family. In addition to opening a separate—sole—checking or savings account, take your name off shared credit card accounts. Don’t give the problem gambler any access to the new accounts you open (i.e. no debit cards, PINs, or checks).

Seek professional help for yourself and other loved ones.

Like all addictions, problem gambling impacts the entire family—and not just from a financial standpoint. Excessive gambling behavior fractures the trust needed to have healthy relationships with a spouse, children, parents, and siblings.

Regardless of whether your loved one seeks treatment, you and other family members should take steps to heal your own emotional well-being. Talk with a therapist to find out how counseling can help you and others cope with the situation in a healthy way. Also, check out Gam-Anon, a group that provides support to the loved ones of problem gamblers.

For confidential guidance or referrals in Lancaster County, PA or Lebanon County, PA, contact the caring team at Compass Mark. Call 717-299-2831 or use our Gambling Help Form.


Parkinson’s Meds Linked to Higher Risk of Problem Gambling [Research]

Common drug treatments for Parkinson’s disease are linked to compulsive gambling and other conditions, according to a recent scientific review by a team from Loyola Medicine and Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The review linked the class of drugs, which controls tremors and other symptoms, to a range of impulse-related disorders, including problem gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive eating, and compulsive shopping.

While it’s possible to treat the impulse issues by switching, reducing, or stopping the suspected medications, patients are often reluctant to change Parkinson’s treatments because they fear their condition will worsen, according to the report. Stopping the drugs may also produce withdrawal symptoms, such as depression, anxiety, and panic attacks in some patients.

The review’s authors suggest that alternative strategies, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, could help manage impulse disorders in patients. They also stressed the importance of the role of Parkinson’s patients’ family members. Along with caregivers, family members can help by reporting out-of-character behavior that suggests an impulse control disorder.

Signs of Gambling Problems in Seniors
  • Acting evasively or lying about time or money spent gambling;
  • Inability to account for time spent gambling;
  • Uncharacteristic decline in personal care, which may include not taking necessary medications;
  • Increase in calls from bill collectors;
  • Engaging in frequent arguments about money or bills;
  • Cashing out life insurance policies, retirement funds, or other earmarked accounts;
  • Selling valuables or heirlooms.

If you’re concerned about an older loved one’s gambling behavior, reach out for help now. Talk with the Compass Mark team for confidential guidance or referrals to resources in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA.


How to Keep Your Resolution to Reduce or Stop Gambling

For many Americans, it’s time to make New Year’s resolutions: promises we make to ourselves to change our behavior in a positive way. If your gambling creates problems that keep you awake at night or it sparks conflict in your relationships, it might be time to change that behavior so you can live the life you deserve. Here’s how to keep a resolution to decrease or stop gambling this upcoming year.

Join a gambling self-help group.

Groups like Gamblers Anonymous (GA) can provide the support network you need to stop problem gambling behaviors. GA’s recovery program is based on the 12-step model that seeks to help people recognize their negative behavior and the impact it has on their life and the lives of those around them. The group is open to anyone who wants to stop gambling, and there’s no cost to attend. Find a GA meeting near you.

Seek professional counseling.

A professional therapist can be an ideal partner for reducing gambling in the new year. He or she will talk with you to learn more about your behavior, concerns, lifestyle, and more. Then the counselor will make recommendations for treatment and recovery.

Treatment for problem gambling usually includes a range of therapies that support each other. The foundation is talk therapy, which will help you recognize your behavior and its impact, as well as identify your personal gambling triggers. You’ll learn practical strategies to deal with those triggers in a more positive way so you can avoid relapses. Additional therapies vary, and they may include family/marriage counseling, financial/debt counseling, and, when necessary, substance abuse help or treatment. Find a gambling addiction treatment provider in Lebanon County, Lancaster County, and the surrounding areas.

Commit to lifestyle changes.

Stress is a primary trigger for many problem gamblers. Learning to reduce stress in a healthy way can reduce the craving to gamble and support long-term recovery. You’ll discover many different ways to dial down stress, but some of the more common methods include:

  • Physical exercise;
  • Meditation;
  • Journaling;
  • Hobbies, including crafts, music, art, and more;
  • Volunteer work.

Additional problem gambling resources in PA

Begin your new year by taking positive steps toward reducing or eliminating the gambling behavior that keeps you awake at night or affects your relationships. For more judgment-free guidance, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use this simple gambling help form.


Men Who Gamble More Prone to Violent Behavior [Research]

Men who gamble are more prone to commit violence, according to new findings from University of Lincoln researchers.

The researchers, who surveyed more than 3,000 men in the United Kingdom, discovered that gambling at any level, from casual gambling to compulsive gambling, increased the likelihood they would engage in violent behavior, including domestic abuse. Researchers also found:

  • 50% of those with compulsive gambling (the most serious form of the disorder) and 28% of those who gambled casually had been in a physical fight over the previous 5 years.
  • 19% of non-gamblers reported being involved in violence.

The difference between non-gamblers and gamblers extended to weapons use as well:

  • About 25% of compulsive gamblers and 18% of problem gamblers (those showing several symptoms of the disorder) reported using weapons during violence.
  • Only 7% of non-problem gamblers reported weapons usage.

The study also revealed that problem and compulsive gamblers were the most likely to say they had hit a child or been violent with a partner. Nearly 10% of compulsive gamblers admitted to hitting a child.

According to researchers, the results stayed “statistically significant” even after they were adjusted for mental illness and impulsive behavior.

This study adds to the growing body of research that connects domestic violence and problem gambling. And, recently, the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) launched its own survey to find out if there are links between disordered gambling and domestic partner abuse.

Domestic Violence Help in PA

No one deserves physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. If you or a family member is being abused, don’t “wait it out,” hoping your partner gets his or her gambling under control. Reach out for professional, compassionate help now.


Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County at 717-299-9677

Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County at 717-273-7190

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Gambling Addiction Help in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA

If you need to locate gambling help resources, including intervention or treatment, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


National Recovery Month: Removing Stigma from Problem Gambling, Other Addictions

September is National Recovery Month. The theme for this year’s initiative, by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is “Join the Voices for Recovery: Our Families, Our Stories, Our Recovery!”  SAMHSA’s goal is to raise awareness by encouraging people to share their personal connection to recovery.

Overall, 43 million Americans experienced a mental illness in the last year, and about 22 million had a substance use disorder. At those rates, virtually every American is affected—either directly or through a loved one–by a mental health or substance use disorder, including conditions like compulsive gambling.

Statistics compiled by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) show:

  • About 2.2% of Americans have had problem gambling symptoms in the past year.
  • Studies of people who are arrested show problem gambling rates are 3-5 times higher than in the general population.
  • Adult problem gamblers are 5 times more likely to have co-occurring alcohol dependence, and 3 times more likely to struggle with depression.
  • People with problem gambling have higher rates of past-year unemployment, divorce, and poor physical health.
  • Teens with problem gambling are 2 times as likely to binge drink than teens without the condition.

Using real-life stories to build recovery-supportive communities

Building a new narrative around addiction and mental health through National Recovery Month helps people in recovery and their loved ones by removing the stigma surrounding these conditions. The result is the creation of supportive communities, one of the four components people in recovery need to support long-term success, according to SAMHSA. All four components include:

  • Health (overcoming or managing symptoms);
  • Home (a stable and safe place to live);
  • Purpose (a sense of meaning through activities like work, school, family caretaking, or creative endeavors);
  • Community (social support systems that provide love, friendship, and hope).

Find a Recovery Month event near you or learn how to promote Recovery Month.

For gambling addiction education, prevention, intervention, or recovery resources in Lancaster or Lebanon, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


Gambling-Related Fraud a Small Business Problem, Too

A former Wall Street executive recently made national headlines after he was accused of committing a $40 million dollar fraud allegedly triggered by a gambling addiction. However, gambling-related embezzlement isn’t just a big business problem. Addiction to gambling, which is a diagnosable condition, impacts small and mid-sized businesses too. Here’s what Lancaster and Lebanon business owners and managers need to know:

Gambling-Related Theft Affects Businesses & Organizations of Every Size
Protect Your Business from Employees with Gambling Problems

Research suggests problem gambling is a motivating factor in about 33% of major fraud cases. Almost 85% of the gambling-related thefts involve a lone perpetrator. Some investigators now routinely examine suspected embezzlers’ gambling habits because casino debt is so common in this type of crime.

Here are quick tips to help protect your small or mid-sized business:

  • Implement financial safeguards.
    Internal checks and balances may help identify fraud before it creates a significant strain on the bottom line. For example, divvy up accounting tasks between two or more workers to avoid having one person in complete control of company finances. One fraud-prevention tactic is to assign one employee to print checks and another to sign them.
  • Train supervisors/managers to identify employees who may have problem gambling issues.
    You and your supervisors can learn to pinpoint the signs of potential gambling issues; check out 6 Gambling Addiction Red Flags You Need to Know. Also learn How to Talk to an Employee with a Gambling Problem so you can mitigate the situation before it becomes worse and so you can direct the employee toward evaluation and treatment.
Additional Gambling in the Workplace Prevention Tips and Resources

A Nonprofit’s Guide to Problem Gambling Fraud
Is Your Business at Risk for Gambling-Related Fraud? 6 Gotta-Ask Questions
Problem Gambling-4 Facts for Lancaster, Lebanon Businesses

For more addiction prevention and treatment resources, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831.


College Gambling: Facts for Parents

The July 4th holiday is only a few weeks behind us and already stores are packing aisles with back-to-college supplies, from bed sheets to notebooks to tech toys. As you prepare your nearly-adult child to head off to the world of higher education, take time to open up a conversation about the dangers of problem gambling.

Fact: 75% of college students gamble.
The campus environment already presents potential dangers to kids, from sexual assault to alcohol to other drugs. Gambling is a risky activity as well. While many Americans can gamble without negative consequences, others develop problem gambling, a diagnosable condition that impacts every aspect of life, including relationships, physical health, substance use, and finances.

Fact: 6% of college students have a life-impacting gambling problem.
This rate is about double that of the general population. Students who struggle at this level also struggle to live their lives. Signs of a gambling problem in college include:

  • Falling grades;
  • Declining class attendance;
  • Failing relationships with family, friends, and significant others;
  • Mood swings related to wins and losses;
  • Increasing debt;
  • Stealing or lying to get money;
  • Pawning or selling possessions;
  • Increased risk of substance use;
  • Increased risk of depression and suicide.

Fact: You can influence how your college-age child makes decisions.
It can be scary to consider that the little boy or girl you seemingly just cradled in your arms is now moving into a world in which you’ll have far less control over the environment. The best tool for success that you can give your child is to start an open and non-confrontational discussion about risky behaviors, including gambling.

  • Find out whether the college has a gambling policy; if it does, discuss it with your adolescent. Gambling may be barred on campus, so make sure you and your child review the school’s policy and talk about potential consequences. Consider also that student athletes, in particular, may be prohibited from gambling at the risk of lost playing time or scholarships.
  • Find out the gambling laws for the state where your child will attend school.
    If your college student is under the state’s legal gambling age, let him or her know that gambling is illegal for them. In PA, the legal gambling age is 21 for casinos and 18 for racetracks.
  • Talk about the financial dangers of gambling.
    It’s likely school-related debt is already at the top of your family’s collective mind. Remind your student that gambling debt can add significantly to what is already a daunting obligation.
  • Have a conversation about drinking and gambling.
    Alcohol lowers inhibitions and reduces the ability to make rational decisions about many things, including wagers. Chat with your college kid about avoiding the supersized physical and emotional hangover that comes from gambling while drinking—there are few worse ways to start the day than to realize you lost $200 last night betting on how many shots a classmate could drink.

For more information about college problem gambling prevention and treatment resources in Central PA, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


New Survey to Examine Link Between Domestic Violence and Gambling

What’s the relationship between problem gambling and domestic violence? The Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ) has launched a new survey to find out.

The nine-question online survey, which is open to New Jersey residents, asks respondents about gambling behavior as well as its impact on mood and abusive behavior. The nonprofit will use the results to better understand the connection between disordered gambling and intimate partner abuse and violence.

CCGNJ’s initiative will hopefully add to the growing body of research that continues to identify a link between problem gambling and an increased risk of abuse. For example:

  • A study of men ordered by courts to participate in domestic violence perpetrator intervention programs found 9% met the criteria for pathological gambling and 17% showed at least some problem gambling behaviors–both rates higher than that of the general population.
  • Research suggests up to 50% of compulsive gamblers’ spouses reported verbal abuse.
  • About 65% of problem gamblers in one study said they’d committed domestic violence or had been the victim of it in the previous year.
Find Help for Domestic Violence

Problem gambling is a diagnosable condition that creates a home environment rife with stress, anxiety, and fear. Yet, no one deserves physical, sexual, verbal, or emotional abuse. If you, your children, or your aging parents are being abused, you can’t afford to wait until your partner gets his or her gambling under control.

Reach out for help now. Contact:

Domestic Violence Services of Lancaster County at 717-299-9677

Domestic Violence Intervention of Lebanon County at 717-273-7190

National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233

Find Help for Gambling Addiction

While problem gambling can contribute to domestic violence, the reverse is also true. Some people use gambling as a way to escape a turbulent home environment. If you’ve turned to gambling to relieve the extreme stress of living in an abusive home, seek help.

Contact a counselor able to guide you through the next steps of your journey. He or she will assess your immediate and long-term needs, including domestic violence resources and a problem gambling treatment plan. For compassionate guidance to the right gambling help resources, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or fill out our Help Form.


Seniors & Problem Gambling: Does Your Loved One Need Help?

Have you lost sleep over a senior family member’s gambling behavior? If so, you’re not alone. Problem gambling is a hidden addiction among older Americans, according to presenters at a conference hosted by the Wellspring Center for Prevention and the Council on Compulsive Gambling of New Jersey (CCGNJ).

Several speakers highlighted the dangers of problem gambling in seniors, according to a Greater Media Newspapers article. One older speaker was a former mailman and messenger who spent years gambling openly. His gambling became more frequent after retirement. After his wife expressed concern about the behavior, the man became a closet gambler, secretly frequenting Atlantic City casinos. The man said during the conference, “I became a much better liar than a gambler.” He eventually began attending Gamblers Anonymous—and was forced out of retirement to pay off gambling debts.

During the conference, another in recovery from the addiction detailed how he failed to pick up his granddaughter because he was secretly gambling in Atlantic City. “I failed as a grandfather,” he said.

Casino staff members frequently pay special attention to senior gamblers, according to Daniel J. Trolaro, education coordinator at CCGNJ. Some employees will even send cards to seniors who haven’t visited the casino for a while. “They’ll greet you by your first name,” he said. “They’re happy to remember you. You’re getting treated like royalty.”

What to Do if You’re Worried About a Senior You Love

Know the Signs of Gambling Addiction in Seniors

  • Lying about time or money spent gambling;
  • Hiding gambling losses;
  • Gambling alone;
  • Tapping credit cards or dedicated funds, like a life insurance policy, to gamble;
  • Pawning or selling household items or valuables;
  • Lacking money to pay for medications;
  • Withdrawing from family and friends.

Understand Treatment Options

Before talking with your loved one, it’s helpful to understand the paths he or she has to recovery. Every person’s situation is different, so treatment plans may vary. However, in general, compulsive gambling treatment includes talk therapy, in which a trained counselor will help your loved one identify the root causes of their behavior. Then the gambler will learn healthier ways to cope with those negative emotions and unhealthy thought processes.

Treatment may also include self-help meetings, like Gamblers Anonymous. Other components might include, if needed, alcohol abuse treatment, clinical depression treatment, family counseling, or financial counseling.

Have a Conversation

It’s never easy to talk with a loved one about unhealthy behaviors, but it’s critical that you have the conversation. What’s more, it’s important to have it sooner rather than later with senior problem gamblers because he or she has less time to rebuild the financial resources needed to live a healthy life. Find more detailed tips for having the discussion in Living with a Compulsive Gambler-Tips for Family.

Find Help
The Compass Mark team has been helping families find the resources to overcome addiction in Lancaster, PA for 50 years. Call 717-299-2831 or use our easy Gambling Addiction Help Form. We’ll guide you to the right resources for you and your loved one.


Gambling Addiction Through Her Own Eyes: One Woman’s Story

What does the face of gambling addiction look like? In one family’s case, it was the face of a mother with two young children. Recently, Woman’s Day published “How I Overcame a Gambling Addiction That Landed Me in Prison,” the story of a Las Vegas woman who was imprisoned for stealing to support her compulsive behavior.

Grace Conenna, who had been the office manager at a family-owned business, says in her account:

“One afternoon I wrote myself a $2,000 check from the company account. It’ll be a one-time thing, I promised myself. But it wasn’t. Over the next two years, I swiped $98,000 more.”

The woman notes that most people would have thought she looked like a “regular mom.” Yet, she says:

“The minute I sat down at the machine, I’d relax. And winning set me flying. I wanted to feel that high more and more often.”

For years, Conenna struggled to control the behavior, which was sometimes punctuated by periods of gambling abstinence. Read the full story (link above) to learn how her life unraveled and what happened after she was sentenced to prison when her children were ages 9 and 11.

You can heal from gambling addiction.

Conenna’s firsthand account is a compelling reminder that excessive gambling behavior has a profound impact on the lives of gamblers—and those who love (and rely on) him or her.

Professional therapists specifically trained to work with problem gamblers offer the tools to retrain unhealthy thought processes and improve coping skills. While specific treatment plans are developed for each unique situation, in general, problem gambling treatment combines talk therapy, self-help support groups, and lifestyle changes.

Take this gambling quiz to find out if you or a loved one is at risk for developing this condition, which is classified as a behavioral addiction by the American Psychiatric Association.

For confidential, judgment-free guidance, contact the Compass Mark team at (717) 299-2831, or find inpatient and outpatient treatment providers in Lancaster, PA and Lebanon, PA at Treatment for Problem Gambling.