Information for Families and Friends

Living and coping with a loved one’s gambling can be a difficult and scary situation. It is important for you to take care of yourself. Even if the person who has the problem is not yet ready or willing to get help, you can still talk to someone.

Problematic gambling can remain hidden for a long time, so often friends and families are shocked to learn that gambling has become a problem. People who have problems related to gambling can and do recover, but it is a process that can take time and patience. Counseling or therapy can help friends and family members explore their thoughts, feelings and options in a safe and healthy way.

How Do I Start the Conversation?

If you think someone you know has a gambling problem, it can be difficult and uncomfortable to consider how to talk to that person about it. Knowing how to start can help you find the courage to have the conversation.

  • Find a comfortable place where you feel safe and won’t be interrupted.
  • Keep it simple and straightforward.
  • Tell the person you care and that you’re concerned about how they’re acting.
  • Tell the person exactly what they have done that concerns you.
  • Tell the person how their behavior is affecting other people – and be specific about what you expect from them (“I want you to talk to someone about your gambling”) and what they can expect from you (“I won’t cover for you any more.”)

After you’ve told the person what you’ve seen and how you feel, allow the person to respond and listen with a non-judgmental attitude. Let the person know you are willing to help, but don’t try to counsel the person yourself.

Give the person information, not advice, and encourage the person to call the toll-free helpline 877-718-5543, text morethanagame to 53342, or click here to chat.

  • Signs in Adults >

    • Being preoccupied with gambling
    • Needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to get the same thrill
    • Trying to control, cut back or stop gambling without success
    • Feeling restless or irritable when trying to cut down on gambling
    • Gambling to escape problems
    • Attempting to relieve feelings of helplessness, guilt, anxiety or depression
    • Trying to get back lost money by gambling more (chasing losses)
    • Lying to hide the extent of the gambling
    • Jeopardizing or losing relationships, a job, or school or work opportunities
    • Resorting to theft or fraud to get gambling money
    • Asking others for a bailout from financial trouble because money has been gambled away
  • Know the Risk Factors >

    • Being in teens and 20s
    • Being male because males are at greater risk of developing a gambling disorder
    • Gambling in childhood or adolescence
    • Access to gambling opportunities
    • Friends who gamble
    • Parents who are frequent gamblers or have experienced problems with gambling (genetic and/or environmental)
    • Being an athlete (attracted to competition)
    • Other addictions
    • Family history of addiction or mental health conditions
    • Antisocial behavior and impulsivity
    • Experiencing other mental health conditions
    • Having an early big win
    • Not understanding gambling fallacies
  • Signs in Adolescents >

    • Unexplained absences from school or classes
    • Sudden drop in grades or failure to complete assignments on time
    • Change of personality or behavior
    • Exaggerated display of money or other material possessions
    • Daily or weekly card game
    • Bragging about winning at gambling
    • Intense interest in gambling conversations
    • Unusual or new interest in topics related to gambling, sports scores, or websites and podcast that focus on these topics
    • Unable to explain how they acquired or lost new items of value
    • Borrowing or stealing money
    • Possessions missing throughout the house
    • Credit cards taken out in family members’ names
    • Unauthorized debit card use
    • Withdrawing from family and friends
    • Uncharacteristically forgetting appointments or dates
    • Use of gambling language in conversations

    Learn more about teens {link to teens page}

  • Comorbidities >

    Comorbidity is defined as the co-occurrence of two or more chronic diseases or conditions. The National Epidemiological Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC) was derived from a large sample of people living in the U.S. The survey results indicate pathological gamblers have a co-occurrence of other addictions and disorders as indicated below. Notable is the co-occurrence of alcohol use disorder for 73% of those living with pathological gambling addiction. Many times, one addiction is substituted for the other.

    Those diagnosed with a gambling problem are at risk for the following comorbidities:

    • Alcohol use disorder – 73%
    • Drug use disorder – 38%
    • Nicotine dependence – 60%
    • Mood disorder – 50%
    • Anxiety disorder – 41%
    • Personality disorder – 61%

Getting Help

Information for Families

Gambling Disorder is considered a “hidden addiction” and may not be apparent at first. It’s estimated that for every one person who experiences a problem with gambling there are another 8 to 10 people who are affected.

Help is available, families and friends are eligible for support, counseling, and education. Research suggests that those close to individuals experiencing problems with gambling also experience negative effects in their life such as new mental health conditions, emotional disturbances, physical health problems, high-risk drinking, decreased social support and impaired social life. The children of individuals with problems related to gambling are also likely to report depression and experience problems related to gambling themselves. It’s important for affected others to reach out for help and support for themselves and their children.

Often people think that problems related to gambling are purely financial, and while money is a component problematic gambling is a behavior, like many other addictions, rooted in the brain. It’s important to seek treatment for both the causes and the consequences. Financial counseling is a component of treatment which can help families to take charge of finances during treatment.

Families should also be aware that there is a high rate of suicide attempts and suicidal thoughts among individuals diagnosed with gambling disorder.

Access Suicide Prevention Helpline site >

Information for Parents

Parents need to be aware that their children are gambling formally and informally with their friends and family on games of chance and skill. It is estimated that 93% of youth have access to the internet and 700,000 young adults gamble online monthly on more than 3,000 gambling websites. Even more importantly, parents need to know the the highest rates of problem gambling are among people in their teens and 20’s.

If the parent chooses to gamble, healthy social gambling behaviors need to be modeled. The best step a parent can take is to be actively involved in the child’s life. Make sure the child understands that gambling can become an addictive behavior, and find teachable moments to share information about problem gambling.

Open Teens and Gambling pdf >

Clinical Counseling

No-cost treatment for up to 12 sessions is available for adolescents and adults experiencing problems with gambling and gaming along with and concerned loved ones. If someone is not able to see a counselor face-to-face due to barriers such as transportation, telephone based treatment is available.

To find help and support:

Call the helpline >

Chat now >

Text winyourlifeback to 53342 >

Recovery and Peer Support

NCPGP offers Peer Recovery Support services to help individuals seeking to limit, control or stop their gambling. Peers connect seekers with the most useful resources in their communities so they continue to work toward their goals in dealing with any gambling problems through recovery coaching and peer support.

This support can include:

  • Helping a person form a plan of action
  • Directing that person to the right resources
  • Helping them navigate the recovery system
  • Providing accountability and support
  • Offering guidance in developing new behavior patterns
  • Helping them view their progress objectively
  • Assisting in harm reduction for addictive behaviors

In other words, peer and recovery support specialists help people with the gritty, day-to-day process of overcoming addiction recovery. Coaches are the “boots on the ground” within a support team.

Financial Counseling

While clinicians can help address the mental and psychological challenges of gambling addiction, financial counselors and other experts offer additional support for money management.

Financial counselors can help with debt consolidation, assist in obtaining lower interest rates, educate about debt settlement, aid family members whose money may have been stolen, and protect spouses by helping open separate accounts, develop budgets or create a Power of Attorney (POA) to help a gambler control the disbursement of funds.

Ideally, financial counseling, when necessary, takes place at the same time as treatment for gambling addiction.

Call the National Foundation for Credit Counseling at 1-800-388-2227.

Visit the NFCC.org site >

Gamban

Gamban is a software that blocks gambling sites and applications and can be used on computers, laptops, tablets and mobile devices. It is free for residents of North Carolina and can be a powerful tool to aid in strengthening willpower and reducing risk of returning to gambling.

Visit the Gamban site >