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How Problem Gambling Impacts Families

a family disrupted by problem gambling

Problem gambling impacts the individual who is suffering with the disorder, but it’s often the case that family, friends and even co-workers are impacted as well.

Compulsive gamblers often give up important activities in order to gamble. They may miss family events, withdraw from social gatherings because of their gambling and in some cases, lie about their gambling, which if discovered can erode your faith and trust in them. Some problem gamblers miss school or work because of their gambling and may even steal money or things of value from family members and their employers.

Gambling is expensive and as tolerance builds, gamblers will chase loses with bigger bets and need to bet more in order to experience the same thrill they once got from betting smaller amounts.

It’s important to understand problem gambling as a serious mental health condition. Problem gamblers, by definition, lack the ability to control their gambling - whether it be at a casino, racetrack, or online. They also tend to develop deepening patterns of deception designed to hide their habits - lying about their whereabouts, amounts wagered, losses, etc.

It’s important for families to understand that you didn’t CAUSE the gambling problem, you can’t CONTROL it as much as you might want to, and you can’t CURE it.

You can, however, set your own boundaries, both emotionally and financially. You can make down your wishes and expectations. You can take steps to preserve your own piece of mind. And you can urge your struggling loved one to get professional help.

The good news is that getting help has never been easier, especially with the COVID-era explosion of telehealth services where your loved one can talk with a counselor over the phone or via a secure video link.

Most importantly, take care of yourself, build your own support system and know that problem gambling is a treatable condition.

One of the best resources available to affected family members is Gam-Anon, a 12-step fellowship where participants share experience, strength and hope in an anonymous environment. Gam-Anon meetings are held daily nationwide and virtually in multiple languages. There are no membership fees and no requirements, aside from a desire to get stronger and feel better as you cope with a loved one's problem gambling.

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