Like any addictive behaviour, the effects of problem gambling often stretch beyond the individual, impacting those closest to them both financially and emotionally. Unlike substance addictions such as drugs and alcohol, the signs of problem gambling can be more difficult to detect.
If you are concerned that a family member or friend has a gambling problem, here are some of the warning signs to look out for:
- Uncontrolled spending.
- Significant amount of time spent gambling.
- Concealing or lying about gambling behaviour.
- Gambling impacting on relationships with family and friends.
- Withdrawal from family activities.
- Spending excessive time on a computer.
- No apparent interests or leisure pursuits.
- Absence from school, college or work.
Try to encourage the problem gambler to seek help. But don’t force them. Pushing too hard can exacerbate the issue and may make it more difficult for them to come to you when they are ready to act, they must want and be ready to make the necessary changes.
Instead you should offer your support, inform them of their options and leave the rest to them. There are several excellent support organisations which specialise in helping people with problem gambling, as well as offering support and advice for those affected by a friend or family member’s problem gambling.
Don’t expect miracles. We all can feel a sense of shame, guilt or remorse and the road to recovery will contain plenty of speed bumps. It is normal to experience these emotions. By finding ways to help the problem gambler and to help yourself, you can minimise the impact that gambling has on you. Changing behavioural patterns can take time. Identifying triggers and learning how to combat them going forward is part of the process.