A gambling problem does not just affect the sufferer; it also has a major impact on the lives of those around them. It can destroy relationships as well as finances, leaving sufferers with little to no help when they need it the most.
If you are a friend, family member or work colleague of a problem gambler, it is important to remember that as desperate as you will be for them to quit, it is ultimately up to the sufferer to decide that they want to stop gambling. As soon as they have recognised and accepted that they have a problem, you can be there to provide support for them so that they do not have to begin their journey towards recovery on their own.
Speaking with loved ones or trusted friends can be a huge help for people with gambling problems, who often feel isolated and alone because of their issues, and it is important for those who are closest to the sufferer to be as understanding as possible.
As the sufferer’s partner, friend or family member, you will have your own emotions to deal with as it may be that your money has been spent without your knowledge or your relationship with the sufferer has been neglected in favour of gambling. However, if you want to help it is a good idea to remain calm and bear in mind that the gambler’s self-esteem may be very fragile. Approaching their issues in a non-judgmental manner can help them open up about the issues they are experiencing.
You shouldn’t blame yourself for the gambler’s problems, but always be ready to get support yourself if you need it. It can be beneficial to attend a self-help group for families of gambling addicts or see a counsellor on your own, because there are lots of other people in the same boat and it can be difficult to cope in such circumstances or know how to offer sensitive yet practical help. You can also learn valuable communication techniques that will support both you and your friend or loved one.
Do what you can in terms of managing finances and be firm when it comes to requests from the gambler for money. It can be easy to hand over cash that they may say is not for the purpose of gambling, and you need to consider how you will handle such situations. You may need to take control of their spending while they work to address their gambling problem, but do not agree to pay the sufferer’s debts or loan them money. Visit the page on finance and debt management for more information on how to tackle money issues.
Most problem gamblers will require some professional help, either from a group such as Gamblers Anonymous or from a licensed therapist, and you can help encourage them to use these resources as one of the first steps towards getting better. There are details available of all the support and services which can be used to help those suffering from a gambling addiction.
Make sure to stay vigilant and watch out for warning signs that the sufferer might be falling back into old habits. There are a number of different behaviours which can indicate the presence of a gambling problem. Finally, the most important thing is to stay patient and be understanding. Problems will not disappear immediately and recovery can be a slow process, but by being there for your friend, relative or colleague you can give them a source of support that will prove invaluable over time.
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