6 signs your loved one has a gambling problem

Man stands at poker machine putting in coins

It’s human for most of us to hang on to something way too long. We hang onto memories, old photographs, clothes we never wear and sometimes, we hang onto bad habits, like chewing our nails.

However, some habits are worse than others and they can become a serious problem

Gambling is a problem most people never expect to have. There’s nothing wrong with having a couple of beers and putting some change in the pokies… but when gambling becomes excessive and the cash starts to run out, gambling can cause other serious problems like depression, anxiety, alcoholism, and homelessness.

For someone looking in the signs don’t become apparent until it’s too late, or without the proper knowledge we sweep the problem under the rug.

With the right support, excessive gambling can be resolved.

In this blog, we’ve outlined six signs of problem gambling plus how you can help your loved one break the grip of gambling.

#1. Being secretive about financial records or payslips

One of the most common side effects of gambling is financial strife. Putting hundreds of dollars into gambling takes its toll and gamblers start to become secretive about their money.

A common question in the house might be, “can I borrow some cash?”

An ever more common question could be, “where’s all your money going?”

Whether it’s out of shame or the drive to keep the gambling going, people struggling with gambling tend to hide their problem, refusing to show you payslips or hiding unpaid household bills.

#2. Household items, valuables and money missing

As gambling worsens, it starts to effect more than just the person suffering from the condition. In fact, the actions of one problem gambler impacts the lives of between five and 10 others.

When money starts to run out, problem gamblers can start stealing and selling household items and valuables, or straight-out taking cash from friends or loved ones’ wallets.

This kind of behaviour has a negative impact on the house as a whole, spreading the financial stress beyond the person with the problem. These signs must not be ignored.

#3. Denies actions or minimises problems

No matter the behaviour – whether it’s drugs, alcohol, or gambling – a person with a problem will probably be living in denial.

An overall blasé attitude towards the problem is another sign. When confronted, a problem gambler could brush off the conversation or downplay the problem.

To avoid having to explain themselves or change their behaviour, a problem gambler might deny they have a problem at all.

You’re being ridiculous, not them.

Remember their mindset is not in the right space right now. Their life has seen an imbalance over the past few months, however unexplained, and your loved one might be manipulating the truth in order to avoid getting better or getting help.

#4. Reporting feeling hopeless, depressed, frustrated or suicidal

Gambling and substance abuse trigger the same feel-good chemical release in the brain. When the good feeling wears off, problem gamblers start to feel depressed, nervous and frustrated.

People feel excited from winning and disappointed from losing and people with a problem feel even lower from a gambling loss. It can trigger feelings of depression and hopelessness.

Loved ones reporting unexplained depression, frustration, hopelessness and even thoughts of suicide are all signs of the gambling problem.

Researchers at the UCLA Gambling Studies Program found that problem gamblers are also have an increased risk of developing stress-related conditions like hypertension, sleep deprivation, cardiovascular disease and peptic ulcer disease.

Listen to their thoughts, feelings and health concerns – it could be a golden chance to get to the bottom of the problem and get them some help.

If your loved one is having dark thoughts, please call Lifeline on <tel:131114> 13 11 14. Lifeline provides 24-hour crisis support and can help them avoid making a rash, irrevocable decision.

#5. Taking an unusual amount of time for simple tasks

A problem gambler will sometimes take a long time to do simple tasks, like going out to pick up some milk or going to the bank.

If this is becoming a noticeable trend at home, there’s a chance your loved one is going out to gamble and using excuses to get out of the house unnoticed.

It’s important to pick up on the signs and work towards getting your loved one some help.

#6. Spending more and more time gambling

Gambling can spread into other parts of life like work and time with friends or family.

When gambling time starts to take priority over more important tasks, commitments, and events, it’s clear that gambling is becoming a serious problem.

The more time spent gambling, the more likely your loved one is to losing their job, or experience problems at work due to lack of motivation, inability to concentrate, and frequent unexplained absences.

If you notice your loved one is spending a lot of time gambling and trying to win back their losses, it’s time to step in and offer some help.

How you can help someone with a gambling problem

Recovering from a serious gambling problem is easier with the right support.  Your loved one might need some assistance making it back to normality.

Samaritans can provide some assistance to help create change. We have a specialised gambling counselling service which provides free and confidential help for gamblers. This service includes individual personal counselling, relationship counselling, family counselling and counselling for grief and loss.

You and your family will not be judged for seeking help.

We can help support people suffering from problem gambling. Contact us now to access our free counselling services.