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How To Support Someone With A Gambling Problem

People with gambling-related behavioral pathologies can act in ways that do a lot of damage to their own lives. However, that is not the only potential negative consequence of such behavioral issues. Their behavior can also have undesirable impacts on their communities, family, and friends.

In such circumstances, it’s natural for people who are connected to people who suffer from such issues to desire to help the affected individuals. There are some strategies that can assist loved ones in their recovery from gambling addictions and other related issues.

However, it’s also important for people looking to provide such support to recognize their roles in that recovery. The affected individuals themselves must drive the recovery and experienced, licensed professionals are the best qualified to help them.

Self-care in dealing with loved ones’ gambling problems

Perhaps the most important thing for the loved ones of people who struggle with compulsive gambling to know is that they are ill-equipped to help such a person if they aren’t healthy themselves. That applies to one’s emotional and mental health as well as their physical state.

Related: How to Identify Your Own Gambling Problem

Because of the strain that problematic gambling behavior can put on relationships, it’s crucial for people affected by such behavior on a loved one’s part to ensure they deal with how it affects them. Seeking the assistance of an experienced, licensed therapist in such cases is not only warranted but actually ideal. As 800-GAMBLER stresses:

“Supporting your loved one through the recovery process can be trying for both of you. If you need additional resources, contact 800-GAMBLER today to find the support you need.”

Additionally, Gam-Anon is a support forum specifically for people connected to others who struggle with gambling pathologies and related issues. The organization offers both in-person and virtual support.

While ensuring that your own emotional and mental health are prioritized, the next most important step is to educate yourself on exactly how gaming-related behavioral pathologies can impact the person you care about. Fortunately, there are many resources on that topic.

Understanding what your loved one is going through

The Gateway Foundation emphasizes how vital support can be for a person who struggles with gambling. Education is a primary step toward providing that support.

“Although you can’t make your friend or family member change, your love, and support can go a long way toward helping them overcome addiction. The first step to helping someone recover from gambling addiction is to learn more about the disorder and what it looks like. Understand the signs to look for and learn tips for helping your loved one get their life back.”

Trent Hall, addition medicine specialist at Ohio State University, listed several criteria that can point to a problem with gambling in someone you love. Those include:

  • A need to gamble with ever-increasing stakes to achieve satisfaction;
  • Displaying negative emotions when circumstances prevent them from gambling;
  • Turning to gambling as a way to deal with stressful situations in life;
  • Lying to conceal gambling activity.

The Gateway Foundation also points out important information about how your loved one may be feeling amid their struggles.

“As a result of their behavior, the person is left feeling stressed, depressed, guilty, angry, or anxious. They may believe that they can win back their losses if they gamble again or at least experience a temporary high. Once a person is addicted to gambling, it can be a hard cycle to break.”

Once you feel you have a firm grasp on the issue and are prepared emotionally to address it, there are some highly recommended strategies to try in the interest of providing support.

Providing positive support to your loved ones

As 800-GAMBLER points out, research shows “that positive social support throughout the recovery process led to long-term gambling moderation results.” In simpler language, your support can mean the difference between a successful recovery and a failed attempt.

However, that has to be the right kind of support to truly assist in recovery. It’s also possible to be well-meaning but actually do more harm to your loved one’s recovery process than good. One such unsuccessful strategy is enabling your loved one’s gambling behavior.

While it can be tempting to assist your loved one with their financial struggles, experts recommend against lending them money or paying their bills for them. Moreover, taking your anger and pain out on them even though their behavior is the cause of those experiences for you can be detrimental to their recovery.

The Gateway Foundation has simple tips for how to provide the right kind of support.

  • Talk to them about their potential gambling issue in a way that conveys a desire to support them, not judge or punish them;
  • Explain clearly the consequences of them continuing their behavior;
  • Express your understanding of their issue and your willingness to help them go through the recovery process;
  • Suggest new, healthy activities that they can undertake to replace their gambling habits;
  • Recommend that they seek professional help for their issue.

It can be difficult at times but positive support represents a balance of holding firm that a loved one’s problem gambling behavior is unacceptable while simultaneously valuing them as a person. In that interest, it’s vital for you to build up your own support network.

Furthermore, just as you need to be patient with the person you are trying to help, be patient with yourself. What you are undertaking in trying to provide support to such a person is not easy. Just as they are learning to form healthier habits, you also are learning how to assist them in doing so as you go.

The courage required for people to address such an issue in their own lives is remarkable. So is the courage necessary to intervene in someone else’s life in this way. With your own support network, education, and careful choices, you can be part of the reason your loved one recovers from a gambling problem.

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