How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Gambling Problem

How to Talk to a Loved One About Their Gambling Problem

Gambling is a type of recreational activity where people place bets on the outcome of events with an expectation of winning money or other prizes. It is a common form of entertainment and many people participate in gambling without problems, but for some it can be harmful and lead to compulsive or addictive behavior. There is a significant subset of individuals who experience gambling disorder, which is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistently recurrent pattern of gambling that causes substantial distress or impairment in daily functioning.

The misperception that gambling is a low risk, high reward entertainment choice is reinforced by the fact that it is heavily marketed in the media with appeals to socio-cultural constructs such as rituals, mateship, winning and success, glamour, hedonism and sexuality. These constructs are linked to the reward system in the brain and can be triggered by specific situations such as financial difficulties, boredom, depression or grieving.

Individuals with underlying problems like anxiety or depression are more likely to develop a gambling problem and it is essential that they seek counselling for these issues at the same time as addressing their unhealthy gambling behaviour. Many people with a gambling addiction also experience family and relationship difficulties, which can contribute to the problem and should be addressed at the same time as tackling the gambling behavior.

When talking to a loved one about their gambling problem, it is important to be honest but not critical or blameful. Having an open and honest discussion is the best way to encourage them to get help. Be aware that it may take time for them to acknowledge the problem and commit to change.

It is also helpful to identify the places and times when a person is most tempted to gamble, and consider making changes to their environment. For example, if they are most prone to gamble at home or at work, consider changing their work location or arranging a flexible working schedule. If they are tempted to gamble when driving or walking down the street, consider changing their route or finding alternative ways to get where they need to go.

Remind them that if they have loans or credit cards linked to their gambling, they will need to pay these back. Also, if they are often spending more than their income, they will need to cut down on their spending. It may be helpful to help them plan budgets and shopping lists and even look after their credit or EFTPOS cards for them.

If your loved one has a gambling addiction, encourage them to replace it with other social and fun activities. This will help them feel less stressed and reduce their urge to gamble, as they will be occupied with other things. If they have stopped going out with friends, suggest they make new ones or join a club for something they are interested in. Alternatively, try to spend time with them when they are not gambling, such as cooking a meal together or playing sports.