Do you have a problem gambler in your family?

Does this sound like your family member?

  • They gambled money that should have been spent on food, clothes, rent or bills
  • They have borrowed money and are unable to repay it
  • They gamble their wages as soon as possible
  • They lie about their gambling
  • They have unexplained absences from home or work
  • They are restless and irritable
  • They are depressed at times and lack concentration
  • They promise to stop but then go and gamble more

This sort of behaviour is common among problem gamblers and very frustrating for family members. Essentially a problem gambler has an insatiable appetite for cash - that's what feeds the addiction. Their thoughts are also filled with gambling, so they may be absent when they should be at a family commitment. Even if they are present they may not participate or may behave strangely.

What can you do?

A number of basic strategies can help family members protect themselves from a problem gambler:

  • Encourage the problem gambler to admit they have a problem
  • Once they admit they have a problem, encourage them to take active steps to address the problem - such as making an appointment to see a gambling counsellor
  • Cut off the gambler's access to cash. No cash = no gambling, but remember that a problem gambler can be very sneaky. You should be in control of the money, not the gambler.
  • Help the gambler to accept that they will never recover their gambling losses. Much of a problem gambler's thoughts revolve around how much they want to go back and win what has been lost. They have a desperate hope that their luck will eventually change. This inevitably results in more losses.
  • Discourage all forms of gambling
  • Seek professional advice or support from a self-help group such as Gam-Anon on how your family can rebuild itself.

More information?

For a clear explanation of problem gambling and what you can do about it, we recommend How to Stop Gambling by Paul Symond, published by Bantam Books.

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