How to help someone with a Gambling Addiction

Many people enjoy a ‘flutter’ on the horses, a spot of online bingo, or the odd slot machine session. However, some people become addicted to gambling and this can have devastating effects on family and friends, as well as the person concerned. If you know someone, perhaps a loved one, who is showing signs of a gambling addiction, then you may be feeling powerless and helpless. Gambling addiction is a real problem; so real that government legislation has tightened considerably over recent years to spot problem gamblers and regulate the gambling industry.

When a problem becomes an addiction

Gambling becomes a problem when someone simply cannot bear the thought of not being able to gamble. Gambling becomes the main topic of conversation – past and present wins – and an increasing amount of money is being spent day by day. When approached about their gambling habit, addicts may get angry and irritable, avoiding the topic because “it isn’t a problem”. But, when bills are not being paid and the mortgage is in arrears, it is a problem. Some people have lost their entire families because of a gambling addiction.

Spotting the signs that it’s time to seek help

Despite the fact they may be seriously in debt, at risk of losing their home, their spouse, and their family, addicts will endure all these problems as long as they can gamble. They may be using gambling as a way to escape from their problems, as an outlet for dealing with feelings of low mood and sadness. This can be common when a person experiences a traumatic lifestyle change or loss. Similar to drugs and alcohol, gambling becomes the ‘high’ they need to feel happy. The ‘reward’ is the thrill of the ‘big win’, but the win – the high – is never big enough, and so the addiction continues.

Having ‘that’ all-important conversation

When a person is suffering with a gambling addiction, they will feel defensive and may respond negatively to your pleas for them to stop. You cannot just tell them to stop – unfortunately, it isn’t that simple. By repeatedly pleading with addicted gamblers, you will eventually lose their trust, which may make things worse as they will then gamble in secrecy. The more pressure they feel, the more creative they will be when it comes to finding ways to gamble. Many organisations recommend forcing an individual to deal with the consequences of their actions, i.e. not giving them money when they ask for it, taking their bank cards and credit cards away – but the gambling addict must be willing to do this, you cannot force them to do this. Unless the individual is ready to face their addiction, you may struggle to find an easy solution to solve their gambling problem.

Finding help and support

We believe there are often underlying issues behind most addictions including gambling. There are many ways we can work with gambling addicts to help them realise the destruction they are causing to their lives and to the lives of others. Using a therapy approach with a combination of different techniques can help to overcome the obstacles preventing gambling addicts from taking that all-important first step towards recovery. By working on the ‘emotional brain’ and negative thought patterns, it is possible to break bad habits and change unwanted behaviours. The process always starts with building trust and developing a mutually respected relationship, so that the individual feels at ease and does not feel as if they are being judged. Once you have won someone’s trust, confidence and respect, they are much more likely to listen and to be guided by you.

Do you know someone with a gambling problem, which may be turning into an addiction? Please get in touch for advice and support on how you can approach this issue.