Compulsive gamblers often justify their conduct by arguing that it is a solitary activity. They claim that they gamble by themselves and that they are not hurting anyone when they do gamble. Their families and friends, however, know that the truth is exactly the opposite. Compulsive gamblers will be increasingly disassociated from their families, careers, and friends; they will use money for gambling and leave their families short of funds for food and shelter. Their gambling takes a larger psychological toll on their relationships as they turn increasingly inward to satisfy their compulsions. Families and friends who are faced with the challenge of dealing with a compulsive gambler will have no idea where to begin. Fortunately, they have access to a growing pool of resources that can offer assistance with their need and desire to help a loved one who has a gambling problem.
Getting Help for a Loved One with a Gambling Problem
Before taking any rash action, a person should make an effort to understand gambling addiction and to confirm that their loved one has fallen prey to it. Compulsive gamblers are unable to control their actions when faced with an opportunity to gamble. Over time, they seek out more and more opportunities to gamble. They spend larger sums of money to support their compulsion, they ignore work and family commitments to participate in gambling activities, they attempt to hide or downplay the amount of time and money they dedicated to gambling, and they might borrow or steal money to support their habits. No black-and-white rule exists to conclusively define a problem gambler, but if you have a loved one who exhibits a few of these symptoms, he may well be on a path toward developing a gambling addiction.
You can use the same tactics with a problem gambler as you might use with a person who has a substance abuse problem. If you confront a problem gambler about his or her actions, stay as objective and non-judgmental as is possible. Do not blame yourself for the problem, and avoid heated arguments. Focus on how your loved one’s gambling is affecting you and your family. If you concentrate only on your negative impressions of the gambler, you may trigger his defensiveness and the conversation will rebound onto you.
Treatment for Gambling Addiction
Take pains to avoid any enabling activities of your own. Do not give or lend money to a gambler. Do not make excuses for him, for example, by agreeing to call his employer to excuse an absence or to explain why he might be missing a family event. Beware of any manipulative conduct on the part of the problem gambler. Addicts, including gambling addicts, develop an almost uncanny ability to cover their tracks and to have other people cover for them. When you have determined that your loved one is a problem gambler, you may need to put some distance between him and yourself to protect you from that manipulation.
Look for resources that can help you as a friend or family member of a loved one who has a gambling problem. Support groups can give you more tools and techniques that can increase your likelihood of succeeding in getting help for the problem gambler. Lastly, understand that your efforts to help a problem gambler will take time. Do not expect an immediate resolution of a problem that might have taken months or years to develop. Convincing a compulsive gambler to get help may require persistence and patience on your part.
For additional suggestions on how you can help a compulsive gambler whose actions are affecting your life, please call Sustain Recovery Services at (949) 407-9052. We can provide confidential counseling to help both you and your family member to address and stop a compulsive gambling problem.