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.


Support Your Compulsive Gambling Recovery: Do’s and Don’ts

You’re ready to make positive changes in your life—and they don’t include gambling. The first step toward lasting change is to develop a treatment plan with the help of a gambling addiction counselor. Once you have a roadmap to recovery, use these do’s and don’ts to support your gambling-free life.

  • Do learn to cope with emotional triggers.
    A therapist trained to work with problem gamblers will help you pinpoint your gambling triggers, which may include stress, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness. Be alert to their appearance in day-to-day life, and take action by coping with them in a healthier way. For example, if you feel stress, find a healthy outlet like exercise.
  • Don’t neglect your emotional health.
    Problem gambling impacts every facet of life, from your relationships to your bank account. Even if you’ve committed to changing your life, you may be dealing with the consequences of gambling for years to come—and that can create the stress, anxiety, and fear that threaten recovery. Take care of your emotional health in a way that works for you, whether that’s talking with a therapist, starting a journal, or taking up a creative activity, like painting.
  • Do get a handle on finances.
    It takes time to rebuild financial resources lost to problem gambling. Consult a nonprofit debt counseling service to assess your money situation and create a plan for financial recovery. Support your new gambling-free lifestyle by committing to a budget and making lifestyle changes that save money.
  • Don’t keep your recovery a secret from those you love.
    Explain problem gambling, which is often misunderstood as a lack of willpower, to loved ones and let them know their support is important to your recovery.  Since problem gambling tends to fracture relationships, seek out family therapy to help begin the healing process.
  • Do make lifestyle changes that support recovery.
    Some changes may be financial. For example, you might restrict your access to cash by having a partner exclusively handle household finances. Other changes may focus on the people with whom you spend time. If you have friends who regularly gamble, it will be healthier for you to cut back or eliminate the time you spend with them.

For additional gambling recovery resources in Lancaster or Lebanon, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use the Compulsive Gambling Help Form.




Problem Gambling: What Health Care Pros, Counselors Need to Know, Plus CEU Opportunity

What do you know about problem gambling? It wouldn’t be surprising if the answer was Not much. This serious and progressive condition often flies under the radar. March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month, which makes now the ideal time to learn more about this addiction and how it might affect your patients or clients. Get the basics below, and then discover more information at Compass Mark’s Start the Conversation: Fantasy Sports Gamble, on Wednesday, March 30, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (This session, held at the Blair Room, 630 Janet Avenue, Lancaster, is worth 2 CEU credits.)

Problem gambling is a public health issue.

The condition itself, which is classified in the DSM-5 as a behavioral addiction, affects 6-9 million Americans–about 2-3% of the population. Problem gamblers are at higher risk for other conditions as well, including clinical depression and substance abuse. However, as with other addictions, the impact spreads far beyond the addicted person’s own life. Compulsive gambling behavior breaks up marriages, fractures relationships with children, and affects work productivity.

Problem Gambling Resources for Health Care & Counseling Professionals

Compass Mark Referral Team Info
Problem Gambling Treatment in Lancaster, Lebanon, and the Surrounding Area
Gambling in Primary Care Patients: Why Should We Care and What Can We Do About It?
Center for Gaming Research
National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG)

Learn more in the NCPG’s gambling infographic below.

Stop Losing Sleep Over Problem Gambling: Do’s and Don’ts for Recovery

Calls from bill collectors. Missed time at work. Arguments over money. Problem gambling is a serious condition that can affect every aspect of life, from relationships to work to finances. If you’re losing sleep over the impact of your gambling behavior, check out these do’s and don’ts for getting back on track:

1. Do educate yourself on problem gambling. Unhealthy gambling behavior doesn’t happen because a person is “bad” or has “no willpower.” Rather it’s a recognized brain disorder that affects an estimated 3-4% of Americans. Research suggests the condition has at least some biological roots similar to those of substance abuse. Understanding the medical nature of the disorder will empower you to find the professional guidance you need to heal.

2. Don’t avoid therapy. You don’t need to white-knuckle your way out of a gambling addiction, and, in fact, many people can’t. A professional therapist trained to work with this disorder will help you identify triggers and develop healthy coping strategies. Find a problem gambling treatment provider in Lancaster, PA or Lebanon, PA.

3. Do work to heal your relationships. Problem gambling affects the people who love you, from kids to parents to best friends. They may feel anger, frustration, guilt, or sadness related to your struggles. Consider marital/family/relationship counseling as a starting point for the healing process. A therapist or counselor will act as a neutral third-party able to help you and loved ones recognize and work through emotions and conflicts in a healthy, productive way.

4. Don’t put yourself in a tempting environment. Keep yourself healthy by avoiding events at casinos or racetracks. Don’t attend parties or gatherings with gambling themes or activities, like poker games. Instead find an alternative activity that will keep you busy during that time. You might also consider adding your name to the PA Self-Exclusion List to ban yourself from entering licensed gaming facilities. Learn more in When Gambling Can Get You Arrested—Casino Self-Exclusion Facts.

5. Do expect setbacks. Recovery, like many journeys in life, isn’t a straight line. Even those who have been in recovery for some time can find themselves fighting gambling urges, particularly when they’re stressed or anxious. When you experience a setback, recognize the mistake—and then continue to move forward.

6. Don’t neglect the value of community. Living with the very real struggle of problem gambling can make a person feel isolated and lonely. Groups like Gamblers Anonymous can provide a foundation for valuable emotional support. Find a meeting here.

You don’t need to struggle under the weight of gambling addiction. Find hope and healing by reaching out for help. Contact Compass Mark; our team will guide you to Lancaster- and Lebanon-area prevention and treatment resources. Fill out an online help form or call (717) 299-2831.


Compulsive Gambling- The Must-Know Fact for Gamblers, Their Families

With one Triple Crown race down and two more scheduled over the next several weeks, the attentions of some gamblers have shifted from basketball to ponies. While many Pennsylvania gamblers are able to bet for fun, others can’t control the urge to play. Here’s what you need to know about gambling addiction and how to find help and hope in recovery.

Compulsive Gambling Facts

Also a Fact (And the Most Important One): Compulsive Gambling is Treatable.

If you or a loved one is struggling with problem gambling, it’s never too late—or too early—to reach out for help. Therapists trained to work with this addiction help problem gamblers identify triggers and deal with the negative emotions that may contribute to urges. During therapy, gambling-addicted people also learn how to rewire their thoughts to avoid misbeliefs that affect behavior, such as the idea that the gambler is due for a win or the belief that players can have lucky streaks that guarantee wins.

Another benefit of addiction therapy is that it helps gamblers start to address other issues caused by their behavior, including relationship problems. Because compulsive gambling is a family problem, the therapist might recommend additional support in the form of family/marital therapy or a family member support group, like Gam-Anon.

Problem gamblers have additional options to aid recovery too. For example, some find guidance and community in gambling addiction support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Lifestyle changes can also help lower stress and reduce the urge to bet.

Compass Mark guides individuals and families in Lancaster and Lebanon Counties to gambling addiction resources, from education/prevention materials to treatment referrals. Our compassionate, non-judgmental team is ready to help you. Call us at 717-299-2831 or use our simple Help Form.

To learn if you or a loved one is at risk for problem gambling, take the quiz on our home page.


Time to Stop Gambling? 3 Steps to a New You in the New Year

An estimated 40% of Americans make New Year’s resolutions–yet research suggests just about 8% of those folks achieve their goals. So if your goal for 2016 is to cut back or eliminate unhealthy gambling behavior, how can you give yourself the best foundation for success?

1. Reach out for professional help. 

Some gamblers may be able to reduce their behavior with goal setting or lifestyle changes—many others need the guidance of a professional counselor to curb the cravings to bet. This progressive condition, which is formally classified as an addictive disorder, alters how the brain makes decisions, just as alcohol and other drugs change a substance abuser’s brain.

A professional therapist—one specifically trained to work with this addiction—offers the tools and resources to help a problem gambler retrain his or her brain. Therapists for compulsive gambling often use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), a form of talk therapy, as the foundation for healing. It’s typically used in conjunction with other therapies, such as family/marriage counseling, financial counseling, alternative therapies (like equine therapy), and support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous.

Find Problem Gambling Treatment Providers in Lancaster and Lebanon.

2. Make lifestyle changes.
Stress is one of the most common triggers for unhealthy gambling behaviors. If you can lower stress in a healthier way, it will help reduce the urge to wager. Different stress relief techniques work for different people, so you may need to try a few different activities until you find the strategy that works best. Activities that help reduce stress include:

  • Meditation;
  • Physical exercise;
  • Mind-body exercise (yoga or martial arts);
  • Creative activities (writing, crocheting, woodworking, or painting);
  • Outdoor activities (walking, hiking, or gardening);
  • New hobbies (music lessons, art classes).

3. Self-exclude yourself from gambling in PA.
The state of Pennsylvania allows gamblers to voluntarily ban themselves from gambling in licensed facilities. People who violate their self-exclusion agreement can be arrested and charged with trespassing. Visit PA’s Self-Exclusion FAQs for details. While adding your name to the list isn’t a cure for gambling addiction, it can help you avoid the temptation to bet at casinos or racetracks.

Since each state has its own self-exclusion process, you may need to add your name to lists in more than one state. For more information, visit Maryland Gaming Resources and New Jersey Self-Exclusion Program.

Take a positive step into 2016!

For problem gambling prevention education, resources, and treatment referrals, contact Compass Mark at 717-299-2831 or use our online help form. We’ll guide you into a new year that offers hope and healing.