How to Help a Loved One With a Gambling Problem


Gambling is a risky behavior in which people place wagers on the outcome of an event that involves chance. It can involve anything from the purchase of lottery tickets or scratch-offs to playing poker or slot machines. Gambling can also be done with materials that are not money, such as marbles or game pieces (in the case of games like Pogs or Magic: The Gathering).

People gamble because they believe that they have a better chance of winning than the odds against them. However, gambling can also have negative consequences for individuals and society as a whole. Some people have trouble controlling their gambling, which can lead to financial difficulties and even serious legal issues. People who have mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, are more at risk for harmful gambling.

A person’s decision to gamble can be influenced by many factors, including mood, family and friends, work, and the environment. In addition, some people have a genetic predisposition to gambling. If a family member or friend has a gambling problem, there are several steps you can take to help them overcome it.

Consider seeking professional counseling. There are many forms of therapy that can help someone with a gambling problem, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy and family or marriage counseling. These treatments can teach the person healthier ways to deal with unpleasant emotions and reduce stress, which can help them control their urges to gamble.

Set boundaries in managing money. If you are concerned about a loved one’s gambling addiction, it may be necessary to take over management of the family finances and carefully monitor bank and credit card statements. It is important to be supportive and encouraging as your loved one works through treatment, which may be a long process peppered with setbacks. However, it is not helpful to lose your temper or issue threats and ultimatums that you cannot follow through on.

Make a commitment to quit gambling. If you have a strong desire to gamble, stop yourself by making a promise that you will quit gambling for a certain amount of time (five minutes, for example). This can help you resist the temptation and focus on more productive activities.

Learn to recognize the warning signs of harmful gambling and seek help when you need it. You can find support in a variety of places, from self-help groups to telephone hotlines and face-to-face meetings. There are also a number of self-help books and online resources.

Remember that you will almost always lose. Don’t try to win back your losses, as this will likely increase your losses. Instead, treat the money you spend on gambling as a form of entertainment and limit how much you are willing to lose. Limit the amount of cash you take to the casino, set a time limit, and leave when that time is up—whether you are winning or losing. Also, avoid gambling when you are depressed or upset. You’re more likely to make irrational decisions that will lead to bigger losses.