What You Need to Know About Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction is a serious issue that affects people around the world. In the United States alone, there are more than 460 commercial casinos. People who gamble do not always visit casinos, though. They can bet on races at horse tracks and dog parks or use a broker to place bets on college and professional sporting events. When someone in your life is dealing with a gambling addiction, you can learn how to report them and get them the help they need.
What Is Gambling Addiction?
If you live in an area that has casinos or an active gambling culture, you may have a hard time defining this type of addiction. Some people think that addiction has to relate to some type of substance rather than an activity. Gambling addiction is a type of mental disorder that causes the individual to feel an urge to gamble. It affects the brain in the same way that other addictions do. The activity of gambling creates a reward system in the brains. Brains view gambling as a type of stimulant that makes them feel happy and euphoric.
Problem Gambling vs. Addiction
As much as you care about your loved one, keep in mind that there are both problem gamblers and gambling addicts. A problem gambler is someone who continues gambling even when they know the consequences of their actions. For example, a problem gambler might keep spending money after setting a limit or spending money they set aside for another reason, such as to pay their bills. They usually still have some control over their lives, however. A gambling addict is someone who lets their addiction control their life. They may no longer care about the consequences and continue gambling despite knowing that it hurts their loved ones.
Signs of Gambling Addiction
It’s helpful to look at the signs of gambling addiction, which include both emotional and physical symptoms. The emotional symptoms are those that you do not necessarily see because the addict can hide them. They include anxiety and depression along with suicidal thoughts. Some gambling addicts think about suicide as the only way to escape their financial problems.
The physical signs of gambling include those that you can see, as well as some you might experience through your loved one. They include:
• Keeping their gambling a secret and going to great lengths to hide it
• Continuing to gamble when their finances no longer support the habit
• Ignoring their loved ones who know they have a gambling problem
• Losing track of time due to their gambling
• Lying about the money they lost and their gambling activity
Gambling Addiction and Financial Signs
Gambling addicts often show some financial signs of their addiction, too. These symptoms are different from the emotional and physical ones you see but are often visible to their loved ones. The common financial signs of this addiction include an inability to pay their bills and keeping secrets about their finances.
The addict may use any available money on gambling rather than paying their bills or even keeping food around the house. If they continue to avoid their bills, you may even receive notices from the bank that it will foreclose or that the utilities will shut off your service. Those with a gambling addiction may have a large amount of debt they cannot explain. You should especially look for credit card debt as they can take cash advances against their cards and use them to gamble online.
Gambling addicts often borrow a lot of money from others. They can come up with stories that explain why they suddenly need cash, or they may just say they need money. You may even notice that you’re missing money, especially if you were recently around the addict. The individual may take money from your wallet and any cash that you keep around the house.
Often, those with gambling addiction never seem to have the same amount of money. As the addict wins and loses, they’ll have a lot of cash one day and then need to borrow money for simple things like lunch the next day.
How You Can Help
There is an old saying that you cannot help an addict until they decide to seek help themselves. This phrase comes from the idea that some addicts need to hit rock bottom before they finally realize they have a problem and are willing to get help.
However, there are ways that you can help someone with a gambling addiction, such as giving direct feedback. You may notice the problem long before the addict does. Make time to give specific feedback about an issue you experienced. For example, you might point out that the individual promised to attend a family birthday party the night before but chose to visit the casino instead. Other ways you can provide help include:
• Providing information about programs and treatment centers that can help them. You want to give them the information they can use without telling them what they should do.
• Learning more about gambling addiction and how it affects the person and their loved ones. Make sure that you focus on treatment options and how long recovery takes.
• Preparing yourself for what might happen. Though you may hope that your loved one realizes they have a problem, you might confront someone who feels angry or upset and refuses to talk.
• Being neutral as you talk. You may feel tempted to express all of your emotions and put out all the things the person did wrong, but you need to focus on the addiction.
Develop Financial Strategies
The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) offers a free guidebook called “Personal Financial Strategies for the Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers.” The book helps you learn what to do to ease the financial issues the addiction has on your life.
It recommends strategies such as changing your credit cards and bank accounts. If you and the gambler have a shared credit card, remove your name from the card, and get one of your own. You may want to let the creditor know that you no longer have access to the card. Remove your name from any shared bank accounts, too. Make sure that the bank knows you are no longer responsible for the account, and block the addict from using your new account.
It’s also important that you deny them access to other forms of money along with your valuables. Even if you still trust your loved one and believe they would never willingly hurt you, you have no idea of the hold that the addiction has over them.
Change the PIN on your ATM card to keep them from using the card to take money out of your account. Move any valuables that you have, such as jewelry or old coins, to a safe deposit box. Gamblers can sell valuables to get the money they need or take them to a pawn shop where you may never see the items again. You should also take control of any shared bills because there’s no guarantee that the addict will use their money to pay them.
Take Care of Yourself
As much as you want to help someone with a gambling addiction, you also need to help yourself. Never blame yourself or believe that you are responsible for the addiction. The only one responsible for gambling addiction is the gambling addict.
Do not let them put the blame on you either. You may find yourself in a position where the addict claims that it’s your fault because you went with them to a casino before or told them about a gambling website. Simply let the addict know that you think they have a problem and are willing to support them if they get help.
Whether you are in a serious relationship with a gambling addict or are their friend or loved one, you need to learn how to manage and maintain your relationship. Start with a list that you write down of all the ways the addiction affected you. Include specific examples, such as using the money you set aside for your bills to cover their bills or the money they stole from you.
You can also let the addict know that you won’t take control of their life. The addict needs to know that you will walk away if things don’t change and that you don’t plan to control anything they do. It’s also helpful to let them know that they need to contact their creditors and anyone else they borrowed money from because you won’t do it for them.
Work the 12 Steps
Though you might think 12-step programs are only for addicts going through recovery, several programs are suitable for the loved ones of addicts. One of the best for the loved one of a gambling addict is Gamblers Anonymous (Gam-Anon). You can attend meetings both in your city and online to talk about the person, as well as your own thoughts and feelings.
This program features 12 unique steps. You work on the first step and slowly work your way to the final steps. Some of the steps in the Gam-Anon program include admitting that you have no control over the individual’s gambling problem, believing that a Higher Power can help you move forward, and making a list of all the ways the addict harmed you.
How to Report Gambling Addiction
There are different resources you can use to report someone with a gambling addiction. The right ones to use depend on what you hope to get out of your report. Some of the top military resources are suitable for veterans and anyone who is still enlisted in the military. The military may remove an enlisted person from active duty and provide them with counseling or another type of help. Organizations for veterans offer similar resources for anyone who served in the past.
You can also look for resources and support offered by individual states. For example, Ohio legalized gambling and now has several casinos located across the state. The state also has a voluntary exclusion program that allows people with gambling problems to set a self-imposed ban on entering casinos and similar businesses. Your loved one can fill out an application, which will then add their name to a list of people banned from entering all gambling spots in Ohio. The ban lasts for five years and lets casino managers know that the individual is not allowed inside.
Many states and organizations also offer gambling help lines where an addict can call and ask for help. The individuals who work on these lines follow a checklist that features all of the questions they can ask and the responses they get back.
Although workers do not diagnose gambling addiction, they give callers the numbers of doctors who can diagnose them. They also offer some limited advice, such as suggesting that the caller talk to their families or attend a 12-step meeting. You can also report gambling addiction to a local recovery center once your loved one decides to get help.
Reporting a Loved One’s Addiction
Reporting the gambling addiction that your loved one has can seem difficult. You might worry that they will hate you or that they won’t walk to talk to you again. You can call a recovery center today to find out more about this addiction, as well as which treatment centers are available.
Use that information when you talk to the addict in your life about their problem. Make sure that you focus on the problem and how it affects you and other loved ones rather than lashing out and acting in negative ways. You can also turn to others who know the addict and even contact their employer if you worry that their addiction affects them at work. Get help learning how to report gambling addiction and finding more about the condition when you call a treatment center today.