When a person has a gambling addiction, it does not only affect the individual, but all the people who are close to them. In fact, it’s estimated that one problem gambler affects at least seven other people, which could include a spouse, children, family members, and friends.
When is Gambling Considered a Problem?
For many people, gambling is a casual, social activity that they can engage in from time to time without ever becoming hooked on it. For others, gambling can become their way of coping with difficult emotions and life situations, or can serve as a distraction from boredom and loneliness.
Here are a few sure signs that gambling has turned into a problem:
- Continuing to gamble despite serious consequences
- Gambling more than they can afford to lose
- Lying about their whereabouts or how they are spending their money
- Constantly needing to borrow or steal money
- Constantly thinking about when they can gamble again
- Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when they are not gambling
How Does Gambling Affect Family Relationships?
Since a person can gamble without displaying any physical symptoms, unlike alcohol or substance abuse, gambling is often referred to as a “hidden addiction.”
Since there are now so many ways of gambling from a phone or laptop without even needing to leave the house, a gambling addiction can go hidden for a while. Because of this, family members are often unaware that there is a problem until it has turned into full-fledged addiction.
However, as the gambling problem progresses, so do the lies and the stack of bills needing to be paid. Over time, the problem becomes harder and harder to hide, and eventually the people closest to the gambler will start to figure out that something is going on.
When someone discovers their partner has a gambling problem, they often feel a mixture of shock, panic, distress, anger, fear, guilt and embarrassment. It can also cause stress, depression, and anxiety due to the feeling of betrayal, distrust, and financial turmoil.
Gambling addiction can also lead to extreme financial stress for the whole family. The gambler may try to chase their losses in an attempt to make enough money to pay off their gambling debts before their family finds out about it.
However, doing this will inevitably only plunge their family deeper into debt. This can cause extreme anxiety and depression for all family members involved, and sadly can end up destroying families and breaking apart relationships.
Children and Gambling
An estimated 2.5 million children in the U.S. are affected by a parent’s gambling addiction. According to research, early exposure to gambling in the family plays a big part in whether or not children and teenagers resort to gambling in the future.
Kids can pick up on their parents’ stress and moods, and your child can be more in tune with your gambling problem than you may realize. They may be aware of the financial stress in the household, which can cause them to feel anxious about whether there will be enough money to support them.
Over time, the children will inevitably start to notice the tension and/or resentment between the non-gambling parent and the gambling parent. In some cases, the gambling problem can lead to divorce, which forces the child to find ways to adapt to this difficult situation. As a result, children may begin to feel neglected or unsupported, and will look for ways to take care of their own needs, and the needs of their other siblings.
What Can You Do When Gambling Affects Your Family?
As the loved one of a compulsive gambler, you may feel overwhelmed and hopeless. You may have tried to talk them out of their gambling multiple times, or covered up their debts, or bailed them out of other serious situations.
While you care for them and want to do all you can to help them, these efforts can often end up enabling them to continue in their addiction, because they know that they can always fall back on your support.
Caring for someone with an addiction can be emotionally exhausting, and can result in you neglecting your own needs for the sake of theirs.
Here are a few things you can do to be there for your loved one, while making sure your needs are met as well.
- Educate yourself about gambling addiction
- Join a support group
- Talk to a professional
- Take care of yourself
- Don’t blame yourself
- Encourage your loved one to seek help
Can Gambling Addiction Be Treated?
Fortunately, gambling addictions are treatable. In every case of gambling addiction, there is always one or multiple underlying reasons as to why the person feels compelled to gamble. It could be related to stress, or a mental health disorder, or other situational factors. When treating a gambling disorder, it is essential that these underlying issues are addressed and worked through.
At Algamus Gambling Treatment Center, we work one-on-one with each of our clients to ensure that they are getting the help they need in order to heal from their gambling addiction as well as the root cause of it. We offer a variety of proven treatment methods including 12-Step programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, yoga and mindfulness, and more.
During their stay at Algamus, we empower our clients to take responsibility for their actions with the hope that any relationships that were broken due to their addiction can one day be mended. Learn more about our residential treatment program, or speak to our gambling counselors to inquire about getting help for yourself or a loved one.