Are you worried that your family member has a gambling problem?

Family members are often the first to notice if a person develops a gambling problem. The following are some warning signs:

  • Once the person starts to gamble, it is hard for them to stop
  • The person begins to lose control over money and the amount of time they use gambling
  • Gambling becomes a way of coping with negative aspects of the person’s life such as depression, stress or family problems
  • The person starts to and continuously borrows money to repay gambling debts, or uses the money to make their bets even larger
  • The person is unable to quit, as much as they say the intend to


How can Family Members Deal with the Gambling Problem?

When someone in the family develops a gambling problem, the entire family most likely experiences a great deal of stress and emotional strain. Besides the financial pressures that develop, family relationships suffer as well. The children of people with gambling problems often suffer in particular, as they feel distanced from their parent. If you are watching all of this happen to your family in these painful circumstances, what can you do?

Here are some Simple Steps You Can Take:

A good first step to understanding how to help, is to understand what a gambling problem is. A gambling problem is an imbalance in one’s behaviour, which is closely related to the individual’s upbringing, environmental, physical and psychological factors.

Gambling problems are a matter of mental health. Just as someone with depression or an anxiety disorder cannot necessarily control their moods or anxiety, someone with a gambling problem becomes addicted to gambling, and is unable to regain control. Blaming the person, or complaining to or about them is not the best solution.

If you decide to talk to the person about the gambling problem, do it in a quiet environment and manner. By not blaming and talking calmly with the person, you will minimize agitation and show that you care about the person, their behaviours, physical and mental health. Avoid blaming or criticizing, but emphasize your concern and keep the lines of communication open.

Kindly request what kind of behavioural changes you would like to see in them and why.

Show you are willing to help by listening to what he/she says, and his/her feelings.

Keep in mind that one person cannot change another person. You can only assist him/her in facing the gambling problem. It is also not your responsibility to change another person. The ultimate choices and decisions are not yours, but theirs.

One of the best ways to help a person with a gambling problem is to take care of yourself. You are also facing a great deal of strain and pressure, and to be emotionally and financially supportive of someone else means that you must also take care of your own physical and mental health.

Remember, the ultimate decisions to make changes are not yours, but your family member’s. As you try and support someone, he/she may ignore your advice, become angry and resentful of you, or tell you to mind your own business. Even if they seem resistant to your help, you can continue being supportive by listening and offering assistance. If your family member decides to seek help, you can encourage them to speak with a professional counsellor. Even if your family member rejects this idea, you can also seek help for yourself by contacting a social worker or counsellor. Being supportive of someone with a problem, no matter what kind, can be difficult and these professionals are available to help you as you cope.


Central East Local Health Integration Network
Réseau local d'intégration des services de santé du Centre-Est