Gambling addiction, or compulsive gambling, is a type of impulse-control disorder. Compulsive gamblers cannot control their impulse to gamble, even when they know their gambling is hurting themselves or their loved ones. For someone with a gambling addiction, the gambling takes over their thoughts and behaviours, driving them to want to gamble, regardless of the consequences. Gambling can often lead to financial strain or even debt, and this can place a huge strain on relationships within a family. Arguments with your loved one can be worrying for the whole family - particularly for children, who may not be able to understand why other family members are distressed.

Gambling addiction is sometimes referred to as the "hidden illness" because there are no obvious physical signs or symptoms like there are in drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers typically deny or minimise the problem, as well as going to excessive lengths to hide their gambling. Therefore, you may suspect, but feel unsure about whether a family member is addicted to gambling. A few signs of problem gambling can include:

  • Loss of interest in family activities
  • Social withdrawal
  • Unexplained absences
  • Mood swings and irritability
  • Lying or making excuses about everyday activities
  • Trying to get back lost money by gambling more
  • Sporadic and excessive purchases
  • Borrowing money off family or friends

Alternatively, a family member may already be seeking treatment for a gambling addiction. If this family member is experiencing a relapse, you may feel extremely hurt and angry they are continuing to gamble, even though they have sworn to stop. In attempting to support your loved one, remaining calm and non-confrontational can be exhausting. Due to the stress and emotional strain of attempting to support someone with a gambling addiction, you may feel you are no longer able to cope on your own. If this is the case for you, it is important to seek help from one of our psychologists.

The practitioners at VCPS can help you and your family in various ways:

  • Helping you to understand gambling from the view of your family member
  • Providing therapy for the whole family
  • Assisting you in making decisions about the future of the family unit
  • Helping you to identify any additional factors which are contributing to family stress
  • Goal setting - creating action plans and alternative activities
  • Providing you with strategies to cope with difficult an negative emotions 
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