How To Help Somebody With a Gambling Addiction
Not everyone who gambles will develop a gambling addiction. Many people can occasionally gamble throughout their life without it becoming a problem. However, when gambling becomes all a person can think about and compulsive gambling begins to impact their lives negatively, help is definitely needed.
Having a gambling addiction can be difficult to be honest about. There can be a lot of shame and guilt associated with gambling, so calling a gambling helpline, asking for help, and admitting wrongdoings is not easy.
Especially because a gambling addiction doesn’t just impact the person suffering from it — loved ones close to someone with a gambling addiction often become affected by the addiction as well, since unhealthy gambling behavior often comes attached to copious amounts of money, maxed out credit cards, and general financial problems.
When someone you love is suffering from a gambling addiction, there are ways for you to help. Reaching out and sharing your concerns can be intimidating. By learning more about gambling addiction and the impact it can have, you can learn different methods for helping.
Keep reading for more tips on how to help someone with an addiction to gambling.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
Gambling addiction, or gambling disorder, is a chronic mental health disorder that can impact a person’s finances, health, responsibilities, and relationships. People do not choose to become addicted to gambling. Similarly, people do not choose when their gambling addiction begins.
People can become compulsive gamblers after the first time they try it, or the addiction might not come about until later on. Many factors go into how and why someone develops a gambling disorder.
To best understand what kind of help you can provide to someone, you should learn more about their specific needs with their gambling problems.
Causes of Gambling Addiction
Everyone that develops a gambling disorder comes about it in their own unique way. Multiple possible causes could be triggering a person’s addiction. If the person struggling doesn’t know why they are struggling, it might be more difficult for you to understand. Helping them understand their own underlying issues can start the recovery process.
Some causes of gambling addictions are:
They enjoy the thrill of gambling
They crave reward-seeking behavior
They think it relieves their feelings of stress and anxiety
They use it to numb feelings of depression and other mental health disorders
They need to get out of a financial hole
They are experiencing boredom
They have underlying substance use disorders
People who struggle with gambling addiction could suffer from multiple causes, making it even more difficult to get help.
Signs of a Gambling Addiction
From an outside perspective, there might be signs a person gives that cue you into a gambling addiction. If you are concerned, picking up on changes in behavior and finances could help you get to the bottom of the issue.
Gambling is not illegal in most places, and many people do it as a way to relieve a little bit of stress and have some fun. Not always does it become something that interferes with your everyday life.
Some signs that a person’s gambling problems have gone too far are:
They are lying and being secretive about when they gamble
They become irritated when they are unable to gamble
They need to gamble more frequently
They raise the stakes on their bets
They are asking people around them for money
The gamble, regardless of how it impacts their relationships
They gamble throughout the day
They struggle to cut back
They ask you for rides to casinos
Talking to Someone With a Gambling Addiction
Many people who struggle with a gambling addiction carry a lot of guilt and shame about their problems. They don’t want other people to know about their struggles, which doesn’t allow for the proper support to overcome the addiction.
If you think a family member might be struggling, talking about it might be difficult. Not only might you feel intimidated, but they might become defensive. The best way to talk to someone with a gambling addiction is to be as non-confrontational as possible and ask simple questions that don’t make them feel cornered.
A person is more likely to trust you with their problems if you show them that you are simply there to support them throughout their journey — the good and the bad.
Be Sure To Listen
Allowing someone to share freely is more important than talking to them and trying to give them advice. Likely, someone struggling with addiction is not feeling confident enough to talk about their issues with the people around them. If you give them a space to feel safe doing so, you might be able to get more helpful information out of them.
The goal is to better understand why someone is struggling and what they think about their situation. You don’t want to impose on anyone and make them feel uncomfortable. This way, you create a space that is more welcoming to their needs.
How Can I Help Someone With a Gambling Addiction?
Helping someone who struggles with a gambling addiction takes dedication and willingness. There can be a lot of setbacks before seeing true progress, and you might end up in some very touchy situations. Sometimes the best help that you can give is to provide them with an extra pair of eyes. They don’t have to feel so alone if you are looking out for them.
Maybe at first, they don’t recognize what you’re doing, but as they go through the recovery process, it might become clearer the effort those around them put in.
Avoid Enabling Them
When someone is struggling, you want to help them. That is the gut instinct that so many of us feel.
We want to take the pain and suffering away from our loved ones, but when it comes to addiction, that ends up looking like enabling. If they never learn the consequences of their behaviors, it makes it more difficult for them to grow.
This might mean refusing to give them money, covering for them on their responsibilities, and not paying their bills. If they don’t have to live with the consequences of their behavior, they may struggle to learn that something is wrong with it.
Create a Safe Space
Make it clear that you are here to support them. They may feel attacked or unloved because you are not enabling them, but stay strong in your decisions. Allow them to feel and express their feelings to you, but remain constructive and matter-of-fact. It may take some time, but people tend to come around once they realize they are in a safe place.
Practice no-judgment thoughts and principles. Be constructive in your advice and stay impartial on certain topics. Don’t overtly express your personal opinions but try to come up with actual solutions other than, “Just stop. It’s bad for you.”
Keep Track of Their Situation
If you believe you notice patterns in a person’s behavior, note them. You might not share this with that person, but you can help yourself by using it to track their addiction.
Not everyone with a gambling addiction will gamble every day. But their mood and behavior might change when they are gambling, and that’s something to note. When you gather information on their habits, it can help you to prepare for a difficult conversation later on. It’s best to be prepared and well-researched.
Research Treatment Options
There are many options for addiction treatment when it comes to gambling addiction. Professional help can be similar to outpatient or inpatient substance abuse treatment services or address root health conditions (ranging from mood stabilizers or antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy to self-help groups and other professional treatment for mental disorders such as bipolar disorder and ADHD).
However, when you’re struggling with an active addiction, treatment may be the last thing on your mind. A person might be thinking about what it would look like to get help, but going the extra step to do research is too much. And talking to health professionals, treatment providers, or support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous requires more effort than that.
If you want to help, you could research different options for your loved one, so they don’t have to. This isn’t something you should shove in their faces. Instead, when the time is right, and they seek help, present them with a few useful options.
Take Care of Yourself
Don’t forget about your own needs while trying to help someone else out. Gambling addiction doesn’t just affect the person that is struggling with it. How does their addiction make you feel? What kind of ways are you reacting to their addiction?
You have to find ways to offload some of the responsibility, as your loved one has to choose to get better. If you can be there for support and try your best to make it easier for them, that’s more than they could ask for. Treat yourself right and ensure you have enough energy for yourself once you have helped them.
Establish a Community With Sober Sidekick
Community in recovery is so important. People struggling with a gambling addiction might seek a sense of community. They might be interested in talking to people that are going through similar struggles. If this is the case, introduce them to Sober Sidekick.
This app helps connect sober individuals looking for support groups and who want to learn from other individuals struggling with addiction. You can build up a sense of community around your struggles and gain access to medical professionals whenever necessary.