Gambling addiction can be a serious problem affecting not just the individual but friends and family of the gambler and may even lead to social issues related to crime and family abuse.

While many enjoy being a gambler for leisure and play responsibly, there may be others who become addicted. Here are some suggestions on what you can do when a loved one is addicted to gambling.

Recognise & learn about Gambling addiction

Learning to recognise and to learn more about addiction is amongst the first of many important steps in helping a loved one who is addicted to gambling. Take time to read about the possible symptoms, impact and avenues where one could help.

Such addiction can also be an indication of stress or a more serious medical condition like depression. While different individuals may exhibit different symptoms or none at all, a few common ones include the constant desire to talk about money or becoming increasingly defensive about gambling or being secretive about one’s cash-flow.

One may become more temperamental accompanied by sudden changes to one’s character such as neglecting family or work responsibilities in favor of gambling.

Listen

Most people with a gambling problem aren’t always ready to admit that they have a problem especially if the person asking is being aggressive or judgemental. Therefore, to get somebody to talk, it is important to be able to listen and keep the conservation going.

While offering a listening ear may sound obvious and isn’t going to solve the problem upfront, it is the first step in getting the person in recognising the problem and in facing the consequences.

Learn to say ‘No’!

While it may be easier to say no to friends who ask for monetary assistance to bail out a gambling debt, it is often more difficult to say “No” to a family member or a loved one. Lending money to bail somebody out of his debts does little to solve the problem and may even add fuel to the gambling addiction.

By throwing an artificial lifeline, they are unable to face the consequences of their own actions and this may lead to bigger problems downstream. Therefore it is important to learn to say “No” no matter how many times they asked or even threatened.

Seek Counselling

It is important to encourage your loved ones to seek professional help as one may not have the expertise, time and even patience to help a loved one with a gambling addiction.

There are self-help groups and professional counsellors who have experience in helping people who are addicted to gambling. Through a large support group, hearing from people who have been through it under professional guidance helps one to identify those gambling psychological triggers and replace them with healthier beliefs.

In some cases, some form of medication may be prescribed and there are reported cases of people with various forms of addictions such as gambling responding well to medication. This is especially so for those where the addiction is an indication of stress or depression.

Another reason to seek professional help is that help can be arranged to better manage the debts that have been racked up due to gambling.

Compulsive nagging

Nobody likes to be nagged at especially your loved ones. No amount of nagging is going to solve the problem especially when most of the time, people who are addicted to gambling are logically cognisant that it could be a problem but are unable to deal with it on an emotional and psychological level.

Therefore, resist the urge to nag and seek more constructive ways to help a loved one. For instance, one can direct them to The National Council on Problem Gambling who runs a 24-hour webchat and helpline (1800-6668-668). Users and callers can also choose to remain anonymous.

It is not always easy to help a loved one who is addicted. This addiction has serious consequences that go beyond the individual and it is important to seek help as early as possible. Lastly, do note that like all forms of addictions, it takes time and effort and even several tries to be successful in helping somebody who is addicted to gambling.

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About the author :Lynette Tanhas more than six years of experience in financial analysis & writing, having stepped foot in the financial world as a commodities analyst. She has also been interviewed by various international media, including appearances on CNBC, BBC & Channel News Asia.