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.

 

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