Help for people with gambling addictions – and their families

Author: Leah Harper

How To Help a Loved One With a Gambling Addiction

No one thinks that an addiction will happen to them- or to someone they love and care about. So when it happens it can be quite a shock and a confusing situation to deal with.

A progressive illness such as a gambling addiction can happen to anyone. Being a progressive illness means that whilst you may have gambled at some point or another with no problems, it can suddenly hit you at a later point in your life, without any warning at all. From gambling, other problems can also arise, such as fraud, stealing and lying, all to fund the addiction. It is a scary time for everyone affected. But what can you do to help someone you love through their addiction?

Look Out For The Signs Of Addiction

First of all, you have to be sure that your loved one has a real problem- an addiction. There are several signs you can look out for. If your loved one is spending more time than usual on gambling, this could be the beginning of the addiction, and is when you should start keeping an eye on the situation. The next factor is money- is your loved one spending more money than they have available on gambling, asking for loans of money from yourself, or other friends and family members in order to pay back gambling debts or just to place another bet and- a major sign– if your loved one begins to steal in order to afford to gamble, you may begin to sense a real problem. A further tell-tale sign of an addiction is if your loved one attempts to hide the fact that they are gambling- this indicates that they themselves know what they’re doing would not be approved of, and so is an indication that it may be more serious than just a simple one-off game of gambling.

Talk To Them

Once you have a firm belief that your loved one has an addiction, the first thing you must do is ask them about it. Do not approach them in a confrontational manner nor should you in a patronising manner either, but ask them in a friendly, caring way that shows how genuinely concerned you are. Simply ask them if they feel whether they have a problem. In order to make the conversation more of a useful one, explain to your loved one how you feel and what behaviours they have demonstrated that make you think that they may have an addiction. This shows that you have genuinely put thought into this and really do care, rather than that you’re just throwing accusations around.

Make A Plan

It can go one of two ways. If your loved one is honest and admits that yes, they have a problem, the next step is to ask them what they want to do about it- this is very important and reinstates the fact that you genuinely care about them and their health. They may have some ideas, and make sure that you do get the opportunity to share yours. Whatever is decided, one of the outcomes should be that your loved one does receive professional help.

If it goes the other way and your loved one denies having a problem, it can be trickier. You should remind them that you’re there to help and give them some information on who they can speak to in a professional environment, and then leave the conversation so they have some time to think about it. Ultimately though, you can’t help them unless they want to help themselves and admit there is a problem. You can’t force them to meet with a professional or receive any kind of therapy until they decide that they want to go.

Be Understanding

Once your loved one begins the recovery process, things can get tricky. Like with any addiction, relapses can happen- and they can happen over and over again. Even placing just one bet at a bar with friends can bring back the urge to gamble and start the addiction all over again. You must be understanding of this if/when it happens. You must remain supportive and understanding throughout the recovery process. Remember, an addiction is used to escape from real life problems, so what was it your loved one was escaping from? Make time to listen to them if and when they want to talk to you. Whilst you should never make excuses for the addiction or for the problems that may have been caused due to the addiction, be understanding of why it happened. If your loved one feels blamed and is made to feel ashamed of what they’ve done, this can damage the recovery process.

Be There For Them

The main thing that will help your loved one is being there. Being a shoulder to cry on, an ear to listen to the problems, a hand to hold through the hard times. Be supportive and helpful, no matter how long it takes. An addiction is more than a ‘problem’, it’s an illness and can not be helped. Understand their problem and help them through to their recovery. Do not shout, lecture, verbally abuse them or make them feel ashamed, upset, embarrassed. Create a positive attitude towards them and help them through not only their addiction but whatever problems it was that they were facing that turned them to addiction in the first place.

Use These 8 Tips to Have Fun and Stay Safe Whilst Gambling

Gambling is a fun, social activity that can reward you with a bit of extra cash- however, the coin can flip and it can take you down some dark roads that are hard to turn back from and can even end up ruining your life in extreme scenarios. Use these tips to help gambling stay a fun and safe activity!

1) Don’t Gamble To Make Money

Gambling is a great social activity that can help you to meet new people, encourage you to travel to new places and is great fun- if you’re good at it, you can win rewards, which are often cash rewards, which is a massive bonus. However, you should never play with the intention of making money from it. The moment you stop playing for fun and start playing because you’re dependent on the cash is the moment you need to take a step back and realise a problem may be forming. You should be gambling for your own entertainment and that is all.

2) Have a Money Limit When Playing

Each time you gamble, go out with a set amount of cash. Do not take any cards or a cheque book with you. Once your money is gone, it’s gone and your night is over. Having “endless” money at your hands can cause serious problems, so leave the cards at home to avoid this situation! If someone offers to lend you money so that you can continue to play, always decline. Not only do you need to be able to restrict your gaming as it is, you do not want to end up in debt to other people. If you’re playing online then look for casinos that pride themselves in their responsible gaming guidelines and offer the ability to set playing limits.

3) Gambling Shouldn’t Be Your Only Hobby

You should enjoy other activities in your free time alongside gambling. If you find you’re giving up other hobbies and activities in order to spend time gambling, or if you’re doing nothing but gambling, you may have a problem. Keep a healthy balance of leisure activities available to you and make sure you are gambling in moderation. If you find you’re missing gambling, try other activities that are similar but don’t have the same risks of becoming an addiction- board games that allow you to keep rolling dice and win, learn some magic tricks so you can use cards.

4) Gambling Isn’t Therapy

Do not use gambling as a way to escape problems at home, problems at work or any other problems in your life. This can be how an addiction forms and is unhealthy. Gambling should always be done for fun and entertainment and if it’s not being done for those reasons, you probably shouldn’t be doing it. If you think you’re using gambling as an escape, talk to somebody, be that a friend, loved one or a professional.

5) Don’t Spend Money You Don’t Have

Gambling should be for fun, and if you begin to lose a lot of money or spend money you don’t have, you may end up in a very unhappy and stressful situation which can not only put a strain on you but on others around you too, especially if you have a family. Especially in the world of online gambling, people tend to forget they are using real money which can be spent in just a matter of clicks. Don’t spend what you don’t have.

6) Set a Time Limit

It is so easy to get lost in the world of gambling and completely lose track of time- this can be unhealthy and can lead to a lot of money being spent, particularly money you don’t have. Make sure to set an alarm on your phone or watch that indicates the end of your playing time or ask somebody that you’re with to give you regular time updates and tell you when your game time is up.

7) Take Breaks Regularly

This is relevant in two scenarios- in a casino or online, take regular breaks to use the bathroom, watch a TV program, eat, read a chapter from a book, go outside for a brisk walk, anything that reminds you of the time and place that you are in! You should also take breaks from gambling regularly- continuous gambling can lead to an addiction, so try taking every other month off from gambling, or every other week.

8) Don’t Gamble When You’re Upset, Angry or Depressed

If you’re not in a good mood, don’t gamble. Do not use gambling as a way of “cheering up”. This creates an association with your brain that when you’re unhappy you need to gamble, and this can bring on an addiction which can be very difficult to overcome.

Don’t be scared to gamble because it can be a good way to have fun- just make sure that you are completely certain of the risks that come with it and make sure that you play responsibly.

Tell-Tale Signs You May Have a Gambling Addiction

As with any other addiction, gambling can cause people to act in a way outside of their typical behavior when the urge to use is at its peak. Many people think that this behavior is simply selfishness run amok and that there is no biological component that is controlled or spurring on these urges. However, these assumptions are misguided. Even though a gambling addiction is not primarily a physical addiction the chemical aspect of the psychological addiction can be just as palpable when it comes to changes in people thought process and sense of priorities. If you think that you or someone you love may have a potential gambling addiction here is a list of symptomatic behavior to look for:

Lying

Dishonesty comes with the territory of addiction. Gamblers, who find themselves fighting their urges or trying to hide their destructive behavior, often lie to keep up appearances to the people in their lives. These people are often their parents, spouses, friends, employers, and coworkers. Lies about money are most common.

“Chasing” after Losing Bets

This tendency is a sort of modified addictive behavior specific to gamblers. People who lose a fair amount of money will often try and win it back at the risk of losing more money. However, some will claim that they will quit gambling after winning or make up an excuse as to why they lost, and even blame it on luck all this amounts to is chasing losses and building up a larger debt. Find out what happens to the brain when you win here.

Borrowing More Money

One of the inevitable outcomes of a gambling addiction is running out of money, but not the urge to gamble. This pathological behavior is not abated by a lack of funds, and all that matters is finding more money to gamble by whatever means happen to be convenient.  Most often this means constantly borrowing money typically from friends and family, and they typically become very cagey about the circumstances behind their need. If they can get the money from those sources they move to credit cards and other unsavory resources.

Always Betting More

The thrill of gambling is about the risk and not the reward and like all addicts the rush becomes diminished after successes and the gambler will need to find greater challenges to get the same thrill. This compulsion means increasing the amount that is being wagered and thereby increasing the risk and the rush.

An Obsession with Gambling

Gambling addicts can‘t turn it off. This compulsion is different from a professional gambler who takes a vacation and who knows when to walk away from the table. The addict has a myopic view of the world where the only thing that matters is the next bet, and they will bet on anything. They will bet on the flip of a coin whether they arrive somewhere on time or even if it rains the next day, looking for any excuse to get that rush.

Failing to Quit Gambling Repeatedly

A gambling addict who knows they have a problem will often try to stop cold turkey, and many will inevitably fail and fall off the wagon. They will start gambling again, lose big and repeat the process numerous times before getting professional help.

Gambling Withdrawal

This fact may surprise you, but even psychological addictions have withdrawals and with gambling addicts this can be quite obvious. They manifest “psychological withdrawal symptoms” that can include the shakes, irritability, aggression, impatience, and insomnia. These symptoms will go way if the addict suffers through them or turns back to gambling.

Gambling to Erase the Past

Many gamblers have histories that are checkered and riddled with mistakes, loss, and hardship and the way they often try and kill those painful memories is through the rush of betting. The gamblers rush is known to numb to the pain of the past and provide an escape.

Committing Crime to Fund the Addiction

Like some addicts, a gambler will often find themselves unable to pay for their addiction and will often turn to illegal means to fund their betting. Additionally gamblers believe that if they win they will be able to pay back the people that they rob or defraud. This excuse justifies the crime they commit.

Gambling is the Top Priority

Gambling addicts put the game before everything else, and will strain to find a way to justify gambling in inappropriate settings, and they will often put their personal and professional relationships at risk, only regretting their behavior much later.

Lucky 7: Top Tips for Gambling Responsibly

Gambling is a pastime enjoyed by millions of people the world over. Unfortunately, what is an enjoyable game and an occasional luxury for some becomes a problem for others; some are drawn into ever spiralling debt and misery, leading to the break-up of families, repossession and bankruptcy. It’s not inevitable that a social gambler will become addicted; here are some tips for responsible gambling.

On Holiday, Set A Spending Limit and Stick To It

The glitz and gold of a Las Vegas holiday may be daunting in encouraging you to spend, but the most important thing is to set a strict limit of your holiday money and stick to it. Factor in a sensible buffer zone for your gambling spend, assuming you can afford it, but don’t make it so much that you have to cut back elsewhere – you are supposed to be enjoying yourself. Don’t expect to win anything, but accept the possibility that you might. If you do win, set another strict limit not to go over your original budget plus the total of your winnings, preferably ring-fence your winnings for something else.

Only Spend What You Can Afford to Lose

Want to spend money on your country’s lottery every week? Having a flutter on the horses? A night out watching the dog racing? Or simply having a card game with friends? Most people have a weekly luxury budget for meals out, cigarettes and alcohol, new clothes, cinema and so on. If you include your gambling spend into your monthly luxury budget from your wages, it will never be a problem. If you have to cut back elsewhere (smoking for example) then you will rarely have to worry. The key to enjoying gambling is never letting it be a problem.

Spend Small

Another suggestion for people who gamble for fun is to be thrifty about how much they spend. Putting mere pennies / cents on a horse, the minimum spend on a roulette wheel, using slot machines with low stakes are all great ways to enjoy gambling with very little spend and very little risk while retaining all the fun. A person who enjoys gambling is often far more concerned with winning than they are with how much they win. Spending small and winning a few pounds / euros / dollars is just as exciting, if not as financially rewarding, as that coveted big win.

Don’t Think of Gambling in Terms of Profit Potential

Gambling only becomes a problem when the person gambling expects to make money from gambling. Each loss brings more anxiety about the loss, more money is spent in the hope that a big win to recuperate accumulated losses is just around the corner, and the cycle repeats. Soon, the enjoyment of gambling is lost and the gambler becomes obsessed with the profit/loss margin. Bigger stakes are made to try to win back losses, which of course will never come.

Avoid the Games of Chance

Ever wondered why professional gamblers make money from poker, baccarat and blackjack and not from the roulette wheel or slot machines? It’s because the former takes skill, the latter is pure chance. Unless the machine or wheel is rigged or faulty, everybody has an equal chance. Learning to play a card game and play it well, or learning about horse form and being astute to conditions, is a far better way to make money from gambling than slot machines could ever hope to be. If you expect to supplement income with gambling, then don’t take a chance on games of chance.

Take Cash and Hide the Cards

This applies in most situations but you cannot spend money to which you do not have access. This is a way of ensuring that you do not go over your comfortable spending limit. If friends or friends of friends offer to subsidise you, politely refuse. Spending your own money is one thing, spending somebody else’s that you may not be able to pay back in a timely manner is another thing entirely.

Never Play Under the Influence

Casinos, horse and dog racing circuits know the effects of alcohol – while it helps your relax, it also lowers the inhibitions and affects your judgement. Alcohol can be the biggest obstacle to you gambling too much. If you are going to gamble, drink little. If you want to drink, be aware of the potential pitfalls and maybe take some of the other precautions listed here to remove the possibility of over-spending.

Gambling Addiction Helplines and Charities in the UK

There may come a time when you think you might be spending a little too much time in casinos, or your gambling is getting in the way of other aspects of your life, and the most important thing to remember is that you’re not alone! You can get help, advice, other people’s perspectives and a general listening ear, from several charities and helplines, which make a job of being available and understanding. There’s absolutely no shame in getting in touch with some of these organisations, even if it may just be to see what you can do to avoid potential trouble in the future.

GamCare

GamCare is a leader in the gambling support field, and they understand everything about what happens when you go through a tough time around your gambling habit. You can talk to people, web chat, or carry out self-diagnosis tests if you’re not ready to talk to someone about it yet. As a registered charity, their main reason to exist is to provide a helping platform to people around the UK who need help and support, and they train a network of national counsellors who provide personalised, non-judgmental support. Their most well known service is the National Gambling helpline, which is available by phone or by SMS as a free service.

Gamble Aware

This UK charity serves as a signposting service, directing visitors to the most relevant service or organisation, and funding research and programs to promote responsible gambling. They recognise that there’s no reason that gambling should become a problem, and it should remain an innocent and fun activity that everyone can enjoy whilst making informed decisions about how they use their money and spend their time.

Gamblers Anonymous

The last thing many people want to do when trying to steer clear of a potential gambling problem is get advice from somebody who’s never been affected by the same issues. This is where Gamblers Anonymous comes in, uniting like-minded gamblers who discuss their own issues. Meetings are open to everyone, no membership or registration is required, as the groups function on the values of openness and acceptance. With no strings attached or obligations, this is an easy way to come face-to-face with people who may be going through exactly the same things as you.

GamAnon

It is often the case that where there is a person with a gambling problem, there is a family or a loved one who is also affected by what’s going on. They might also want support, or guidance on how to best help their loved one or relative. GamAnon meetings are held at the same time as Gamblers Anonymous meetings but in a separate room, so that members of each group can be open and freely discuss their issues they want to bring up.

Gordon Moody Association

If you really think that face-to-face help is the best way for you to overcome what you’re going through, then this British charity runs residential programmes in the West Midlands and also in the Kent area, which run for 12 weeks and work with each resident to adopt new habits and drop the old ones which may be having a harmful effect on aspects of their lives.

Gambling Addiction Helplines and Charities in Australia

There are times when gambling can become more of a problem than a fun distraction, and at these times the best thing to do is to try and find help to get you through it and come out with the ability to still be able to play poker or have a go on slot machines without it being an issue. In Australia there are a number of national organisations and remote helplines (over the phone or internet) on standby, waiting to help those in need, or those who aren’t sure whether or not they need help. Though much help can be found online, there are many Australia-specific bodies  with local representation, which can be useful in providing a direct line to positive progress.

Gambling Help Online

A wealth of services awaits anyone who drops into this website because they think they might need help, or because they’re concerned about someone close to them. The website is structured so as to encourage you to directly identify why you’re there in the first place, and direct you to online platforms, physical meetings or helplines, wherever you are in Australia. Acknowledging the link between gambling problems and financial precariousness, they also offer financial support and coaching to overcome the worst of these issues.

Gamblers Anonymous

There’s no greater way to acknowledge and accept that you have a gambling problem than to talk about it with people who are going through or have gone through similar experiences, and who get together on a weekly basis to help each other through whatever issues each one is having. The size of the country of Australia and its wide spread across mainland and satellite islands makes it difficult to have meetings in every town, but there are state entities that coordinate meetings in many populated spots around the country, so that wherever you are you’re never too far from a meeting.

Amity Community Services

For those based in the Northern Territories, this community service provides tips and community meetings to manage your gambling habit and avoid falling into some of the most common traps that many gamblers are susceptible to. There is even a direct email address which guarantees a return email to any request for information or advice. There is also a useful questionnaire resource which helps you to assess how serious the issues you’re facing are, and take appropriate action. One of the options they present you with is to complete a self-exclusions form from several major gambling institutions, so that you agree with them that you are banned from entering their premises.

Gspot

This is a resource-based platform which contains lots of information on how to diagnose and deal with a number of gambling-related problems, with links to relevant helplines around the country. The website itself has a wealth of texts to guide you in understanding what you’re going through, without having to take that big step of talking to someone about it or meeting someone face-to-face immediately.

Gambling Addiction Helplines and Charities In The USA

Having a gambling addiction is becoming more and more of a common thing all over the globe. Because it makes no physical damage to a person, it is not often treated as a serious addiction- but it is an addiction none the less, and one that can isolate an individual. However, there are several people you can contact. Across the USA, there are number of charities and helplines that will offer support to help people through this tough time.

California Council on Problem Gambling (www.calpg.org)

This is a not for profit group that helps not only gambling addicts, but their families too. They do this through education, research, promoting awareness of the dangers of gambling and the chance of addiction and by offering treatments. They not only provide direct aid to people who need help, but also offer people the opportunity to gain qualifications and certificates so that they might learn to help people with addictions and volunteer for the group. Furthermore, they provide schools, work places and conventions etc. with distributable leaflets and pamphlets full of information. They are a totally volunteer led group, with no state funding.

National Problem Gambling Helpline

This is a number (1-800-522-4700) that can be called by those who suffer from gambling addiction or those who are living with/know someone who they believe needs help. This is more than just one number though- it is a number that goes through to 28 different call centres, as there is an entire support system network available 24/7. If you don’t feel comfortable making the phone call, there is also a texting service and a live chat service for online use available too.
There is also a number of helplines you can call- most are 24/7 but the one’s who are not tend to have a live chat alternative instead! There is at least one in every city.

Gambler’s Anonymous

 If you’re looking for the more orthodox route to beating an addiction, there are still therapy groups that meet in person where you can meet other people who are also suffering from a gambling addiction. An example of one of these groups is Gambler’s Anonymous. The group is free for all, with no fee’s whatsoever. The group also has a direct helpline if you wish to speak to somebody straight away.

USA Military Gambling Help

If you’re in the army, or the person you believe to have an addiction is, there is even a group dedicated to military individuals- USA Military Gambling Help. They have a website as well as a live advice helpline, although this is not available 24/7.
There is no shortage of helplines across the US, and there is always someone ready to offer you advice and help you with what you’re going through.

Gambling Addiction Helplines and Charities Around the World

A gambling addiction should always be treated as seriously as any other kind of addiction- unfortunately this is not always the case. However, nobody has to suffer with this problem alone and there are several charities and helplines all over the world that can provide help and support.

Australia

Down Under, there are a huge amount of helplines, some that are available 24/7, others that aren’t but offer an email service or live chat service as an alternative to a phone call. Examples include:

  • Australia’s Gamblers Anonymous- www.gamblersanonymous.org
  • Gambling Impact Society Inc- www.gisnsw.org.au
  • gspot- Australia- www.gspot.org

New Zealand

In New Zealand, casinos and gambling are not a big part of every day life or a part of the culture, and so there isn’t as many resources as you might find in places such as the US or England. However, there is still a few to choose from, with two being the examples below:
  • New Zealand Problem Gambling Helpline- www.gamblingproblem.co.nz
  • Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand- www.pgfnz.org.nz

South Africa

South Africa is home to one of the most majestic casino’s, so yes, it is fair to say that there are a lot of gamblers here and that it is immersed in their culture and is something children will have grown up knowing about. There is a wider variety of gambling addiction helplines available compared to “quieter” countries like New Zealand, and a small sample of these are listed below:
  • National Resonsible Gambling Program- www.responsiblegambling.co.za
  • Problem Gambling Help SA- www.problemgambling.sa.gov.au/
  • Responsible Gambling with the National Gambling Board- www.ngb.org.za

Asia

With countries such as China and Japan under it’s belt, yes, the vast majority of gambling addicts do come from Asia- yet they try to conceal the problem. This is never healthy as it makes addicts feel ashamed about themselves and this can be self destructive. There aren’t many helplines and charities available but here is a small sample;
  • Kaya Rehab Problem Gambling- www.kayarehab.com/gambling-addiction/
  • Gambling Addiction Treatment- addictionfriend.hk/gambling-addiction/

Spain

Spain’s culture is all about sex, money, food and enjoying life…gambling certainly comes in there somewhere. If you find you’ve reached the point where you are no longer playing responsibly, make sure to seek out help from one of these available charities:
  • Costa Rehab- www.costarehab.com
  • Serenity House- www.serenityhousespain.com
  • Camino Reovery- www.caminorecovery.com

France

Another country to home a popular casino, gambling isn’t foreign to the French- but sadly, neither is gambling addiction. You can seek help and begin your road to recovery in the following places:
  • Adictel- www.gamblingtherapy.org/adictel
  • Addiction Helper- www.addictionhelper.com/world/france
So, as you can see, a gambling addiction can affect anyone at any time from anywhere. There really is no shortage of help, and this is just a small, small portion of websites that have links to live chats, text services and phone numbers where you can receive all of the help you need. These helplines and charities aren’t just for individuals suffering with a gambling addiction either- they’re also there to assist those who live with and/or love someone who is suffering with a gambling addiction too.