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How to Help Someone With a Gambling Addiction

Medically Verified: 2/1/24

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All of the information on this page has been reviewed and verified by a certified addiction professional.

Gambling addiction (compulsive gambling) is a condition that causes people to continue gambling despite facing significant consequences, such as financial devastation or strained relationships. According to Rutgers Addiction Research Center, 5 million people meet the criteria for problem gambling.[1]

If someone you love struggles with a gambling issue, you might be wondering how you can help them. It is understandable to be irritated, angry, and even resentful. Compulsive gambling can cause extreme financial issues, leading to bankruptcy and even the loss of a home.

While gambling addiction can be frustrating from the outside, it is considered a true disorder. The best way to help someone overcome compulsive gambling is to influence them to get professional help. Whether they engage in online gambling or attend casinos, the only way to ensure recovery is through a professional addiction treatment center.

In this article, you will learn:

  • The signs of compulsive gambling
  • How to talk to someone about their gambling addiction
  • Tips for helping someone stop gambling
  • The importance of professional treatment for gambling addiction

What are the Signs of a Gambling Addiction?

Gambling addiction can develop over time or begin as soon as your loved one places their first bet. However, the severity of the addiction does take time to progress. Over time, your loved one will place higher and higher bets, attempting to win back all of the money they have lost.

When someone has a gambling addiction, they feel an irresistible urge to gamble. This can cause them to deplete their savings, steal from friends and family members, and neglect other responsibilities to gamble. In other words, gambling becomes a compulsive behavior that they cannot overcome.

If you are worried that your loved one is a compulsive gambler, it’s important to be aware of the signs. The main signs of a gambling addiction include:[2]

  • Feeling a need to gamble and increase the amount of money to experience excitement
  • Experiencing feelings of restlessness or boredom when they are not gambling
  • Attempting to quit gambling but being unsuccessful
  • Having an inability to focus on anything other than placing bets
  • Using gambling to deal with uncomfortable emotions like depression, anxiety, or guilt and shame
  • Lying about how much money they are spending on gambling
  • Using all of one’s savings on gambling or stealing from family and friends
  • Experiencing problems at home, work, or school because of their gambling habit
  • Relying on others to solve financial issues that have resulted from gambling

Like drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction causes people to crave the action of placing bets. Even if they are losing money every time and feeling ashamed about their habit, they cannot seem to stop gambling. If this sounds familiar, your loved one might be a problem gambler.

How to Talk to Someone About Their Gambling Problem

If your loved one is gambling compulsively, you might not know how to approach them about it. Talking about addiction can be incredibly sensitive, so it is important to be aware of the best ways to tackle such a delicate conversation.

When speaking with a friend or loved one about their gambling addiction, you should:

  • Offer Support – The first thing you should do is let them know that you care and you are here for them. Starting the conversation off with support will lessen the likelihood of your loved one becoming defensive or feeling attacked.
  • Avoid Criticizing – Avoid saying things that will make your loved one feel like you are arguing with them or blaming them. Additionally, you should avoid interrupting when they are speaking, as this will make them feel like you do not understand where they are coming from.
  • Use “I” Statements – Explaining how the gambling makes you feel will help your loved one understand the effects of their compulsive gambling. That said, you should avoid using statements that begin with “you,” such as “You make me feel upset.” Instead, use “I” statements, like “I feel upset.”

Tips for Helping Someone With a Gambling Addiction

It’s important to remember that the ultimate goal should always be getting your loved one to accept professional treatment. While you can support your loved one, you cannot cure their gambling addiction on your own.

When helping someone overcome a gambling problem, consider trying the following:

Have a Conversation

The first thing you should do is talk with your loved one about their gambling problem. Addiction can make it difficult for your loved one to recognize that they even have an issue in the first place. For this reason, starting the conversation might actually open them up to the idea that they need help.

Set Boundaries

Oftentimes, addiction will continue to fester and worsen over time when someone is not experiencing consequences. By setting boundaries, you can allow your loved one to experience the effects of their gambling addiction. This might make them more likely to accept professional treatment.

Examples of healthy boundaries for gambling include:

  • Canceling shared credit cards
  • Not providing them with money to spend freely
  • Refusing to bail them out of financial trouble when they gamble their money away

Recommend Professional Help

The best way to overcome a gambling addiction is to seek professional addiction treatment. These programs will offer your loved one evidence-based treatment options like cognitive behavioral therapy, group counseling, and weekly support groups. By offering your loved one the option to attend professional treatment, they might feel more comfortable with the idea of getting help.

Take Care of Yourself

When you are trying to help your loved one overcome a gambling problem, you must care for your mental health. Gambling addiction can affect the whole family, especially if it’s your parent or partner who is gambling away all of the finances. There are support groups out there for the loved ones of gamblers and you could attend private therapy to deal with the lasting effects of your loved ones gambling problem.

Find Help for Gambling Addiction

If you or a loved one suffers from gambling addiction, it’s time to seek help. At South Carolina Addiction Treatment Center, we can assist you with drug and alcohol addiction, gambling addiction, or a combination of both. We use evidence-based treatment methods and a compassionate approach to addressing addiction and mental health-related issues.

Contact us today for more information on how our addiction treatment programs work.

References:

  1. Rutgers Addiction Research Center: Gambling
  2. The Arizona Department of Problem Gambling: Signs and Symptoms of Problem Gambling

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