How To Help A Gambling Addict

We admire you for wanting to help, and we want to support you as much as we can! This guide gives you the best tools we know for helping a gambling addict

  • See the invisible signs.
  • How to avoid co-dependence.
  • Let Nonviolent Communication help you.
Video 1 – Introduction

Jump Ahead?

Introduction

Can you recall the safety briefing on an aeroplane before take-off? They always tell you to put the oxygen mask over your face before you can help anybody else; It’s the same with helping a compulsive gambler. You need to focus on yourself first.

Video 2 – How NVC can help you.

We admire you for your efforts, and we want to help you! We’ve developed a video course in Nonviolent Communication, NVC.

Here is how NVC can help you!

  • Show you that you’re not responsible for how other people feel.
  • Help you forgive yourself, and understand your feelings
  • Improve your communication
  • Make it easier to confront and listen to the addict.

Let’s Get Started

Non-Violent Communication is a potent tool that you can use in every aspect of your life. We highly recommend you take a closer look at it. As a relative or friend, you get the course for free when you sign up as a member.

In this guide, we’ll show you the “invisible signs” of gambling addiction, discuss the dangers of co-addiction and give you some valuable tools to protect you and improve your chances to help the compulsive gambler.

Before we begin, most addicts want to be discovered! Don’t get us wrong. They are mortified, but the moment the bomb drops, when all lies are exposed and finally come clean, it is often described as relieving.

Here are a few quotes about “coming out” former gambling addicts:

What Is Gambling Addiction?

On QG, we believe pain is the cause of addiction. Drugs, alcohol, and gambling are just ways to escape pain, so it’s the escape people get addicted to. We use the term pain as a collective for all the feelings and experiences we don’t want to have, like loneliness, boredom, stress, anxiety, negative self-belief, etc.

Perhaps you have experienced the relief alcohol can give. For gamblers, gambling can have a similar effect. We believe there is an upside to addiction. (Perhaps, that explains why it’s so hard to quit) Addiction is the brain’s defence mechanism against pain. For a compulsive gambler, that defence is gambling.

Gambling addiction – Introduction

We define gambling addiction as:

Please remember the definition of gambling addiction when you read about all the shitty things addicts can do to “feed” their addiction. A compulsive gambler is not a bad person; he/she is just doing the best they can to escape their pain.

20-30% of gamblers gambling weekly show signs of problematic gambling behaviour [1]. At the same time, 2-3% suffer from gambling addiction [2]. As a affected other, you might hear arguments about responsible gambling. (Both casinos and authorities use the term A LOT), but as one of our users said: “For a gambling addict, there is nothing like responsible gambling ”. If you want to read more about responsible gambling, see this article.

As a relative, it’s essential to understand the difference between gambling problems and gambling addiction since you meet different challenges when trying to help them.

  • Gambling Problem: The negative consequence of gambling isn’t overshadowing the fun parts for a problem gambler. It means that it’s easier to handle a gambling problem, BUT, unfortunately, the person might not see gambling as a problem yet.
  • Gambling Addiction: A compulsive gambler often knows he/she has a problem, which makes it easier to admit. BUT, the addiction is so strong that it’s difficult to break free of it.

As you can see, each case poses different challenges. We recommend you read the article about addiction, discussing why a person gambles and the risk of developing a problem.

The article’s essence is that we believe a person is out on thin ice as soon as the prime motivation of gambling is to win money.

What Are The Signs of Gambling Addiction?

We’ll not make any difference between gambling addiction and gambling problems from now on. The signs are very similar for you as a relative or affected other. The signs of gambling addiction may be more visible since the problems are worst for a compulsive gambler.

Compared to alcohol problems, it’s harder to discover gambling problems. Alcohol smells, and the person gets intoxicated. A compulsive gambler doesn’t smell and isn’t acting drunk.

But does it mean the signs of gambling addiction are invisible? No, it doesn’t. Here are the most common signs :

  • If you feel that something is wrong, the person seems troubled and worried. When you ask about it, you only get evasive answers.
  • Changes in behaviour make the person develop mode swings and quickly get upset or restless.
  • The person hides something and spends a lot of time alone.
  • Sleeping problems, the person sleeps poorly. It’s a common symptom of inner anxiety and stress.
  • Spends plenty of time gambling; you notice physically that the person is gambling a lot.
  • Isolate himself from social activities. Avoids family gatherings, after work, and meeting friends.
  • Problems completing things on time. When people spend too much time gambling, it’s hard to manage work and social duties. The person will often postpone things.
  • Ask about money; need to borrow money, get reminders for old invoices, and brings problems with debt.
  • The person talked about gambling in the past but has suddenly stopped.
See the signs of gambling addiction.

Not much to go on, we must admit. A depressed person or someone “having an affair” may show similar signs. Perhaps, you’ll notice some of the signs above, maybe not. In any case, DON’T PUT ANY BLAME ON YOURSELF if you don’t see anything. Most addicts are experts at hiding their problems!

What you can do is write things down. When you write down what happens at home, you get a chance to see patterns. Why do you get the feeling that something is wrong? How often does the mood change? How often does he/she isolate themselves? How…? You get the idea.

Here Are Some Things You Can Do:

Take action – List of things you can do to discover someone with gambling problems.
  1. Again, write down things happening around the person.
  2. Register yourself in the QG Community. Chat, share your concern, get advice, and discuss with problem gamblers or relatives of them.
  3. Confide in someone else close to the person with gambling problems. It could be a family member, partner, close friend, or associate. You don’t have all the information. Find someone that can help you, help the gambling addict.
  4. Study gambling. Read about online gambling to get a basic understanding of online casinos, poker, and sportsbook. It will help you at a later stage.
  5. Be extra attentive to anything concerning money; invoices, reminders, loans, etc.
  6. Think about yourself! Avoid falling into the co-dependency trap. (more about that later)

You’re not spying! You’re not going behind someone’s back! You’re not betraying the person!
REMEMBER, the person wants to be exposed!

It’s crucial to talk with another relative. That way, you’re not alone, you get some support, and you can get more information together.

For a co-worker, it’s hard to observe the behaviour at home. Likewise, it’s difficult for a spouse to see how they behave at work. If you worry the person has taken loans, ask family members or close friends of the gambling addict if he/she borrowed money from them.

  1. Check your bank accounts if you share login details with the person (or ask someone that does)
  2. Check the person’s credit records. There are services for that online.
  3. Check the mail for reminders and old invoices.
  4. Look for gambling apps on the computer and the person’s phone. (Be extra attentive) You’ll find 24 popular casino apps in the image on the right.

If you keep an eye out for signs and actively take action to understand what is going on, you have already come a long way. Before you talk with the person, we want to focus on you! Because you’re probably in greater mental danger than you think.

Examples of casino mobile apps

What Is Co-Dependence?

Video 2 – What is co-dependence?

Co-dependence, also called co-addiction, is a severe condition that can occur in people around an addict.

Even if the first thoughts after discovering that someone has lied about gambling problems (and what they’ve done) may be feelings of anger, disappointment, betrayal, and grief, it’s about a person close to you, someone you potentially love. People often let their positive feelings for the person take over. Consequently, they risk falling into a co-dependency. Remember, instead of counteracting the addiction, they start to adapt.

What are the signs of co-dependence? [3]

  • Cover up financially. For instance, pay debts and invoices to protect the person with a gambling problem. It’s also common to loan money to a person.
  • Defending their behaviour to others
  • Feeling responsible for the behaviour of the addict.
  • More comfortable to give.
  • Unhealthy boundaries, the co-dependent person can’t set personal limits and let the addict bully them around.
  • Put the needs of the addict ahead of one’s own.
  • Easily over-engage themselves and are attracted to people with special needs.
Be aware of becoming co-addiction
Consequences of co-dependence can be depression, fatigue, low energy and low self-esteem

Spontaneously, it feels like a co-addicted person is a wonderful human being, doesn’t it? The problem is that co-dependency creates a destructive pattern in your life. It isn’t your life anymore! Normal symptoms of co-dependence are:

  • Depression
  • Fatigue
  • Low energy
  • Low self-esteem
  • A feeling of living someone else’s life

Before we continue, we’d like to share another NVC video with you. We tend to take responsibility for other people’s feelings. It’s bad under normal circumstances but can be catastrophic when dealing with a gambling addict.

6 ways to avoid co-dependence

  1. Get help – Become a member of the QG Community.
    Get support and tips from other relatives to addicts.
  2. Take our Non-violent Communication course (it’s free).
  3. Put yourself first! Remember the safety briefing before
    take-off. You must place the oxygen mask over your
    own face before you can help anybody else!
  4. Dare to act – be brave and do something about the
    problem. Even if it feels hard, even hopeless, it doesn’t
    have to be like this anymore. ACT NOW!
  5. Set up rules. Set limits and demands. Be tough, don’t
    use empty threats. You must be strict to be taken
    seriously.
  6. Never accept bad behavior. Set clear rules about what
    is acceptable and unacceptable. Set the bar high and
    make sure that it’s followed. If not, that bad behavior
    may become normalized.
6 ways to avoid co-dependence

How To Confront An Addict –
The Important Talk

The natural reaction to finding out that someone close to you has lied, manipulated, and perhaps even stolen from you is acting out! HOW COULD YOU DO THIS? HOW COULD YOU BE SO STUPID…?

On QuitGamble.com, we believe pain is the cause of addiction. If we condemn, shame, put guilt or yell at somebody, it will create more pain. What happens then? The person will only feel a stronger urge to gamble.

What prevents you from talking with the person right away? What are you most afraid of? How will the person react, or how will you respond? (Yes, the NVC program contains a lesson in fear too.)

Here are some common fears:

  • Fear of conflict
  • Fear of anger
  • Fear of disappointment
  • Fear of getting hurt
  • Fear of breaking up
  • Fear of pain
  • Fear of accusations
  • Fear of retaliation

We are all afraid and insecure sometimes. It’s completely natural and a vital reason humans have survived through evolution. Our intention is not to scare you. We want to make you mentally strong and prepared for what can happen.

Did you ever read The Brothers Lionheart by Astrid Lindgren as a kid? If not, read it! There Is A Great Quote In There :

If Jonathan can do it, so can you and me! It’s not physically dangerous to talk with a person with gambling problems, but it can be excruciating anyway. BUT WHAT IS THE ALTERNATIVE?

What Happens If The Person Continues Playing?

You risk becoming co-dependent. You may start to cover up for the person, and the price can be high, financially and mentally. (Read the text about co-dependency again). If you’re married to the person, you may get into debt too.

Gambling can ruin people’s lives with unmanageable debts, lost friends, and relatives. Gambling addiction is also the addiction with the most suicides. BUT Good news!

You can make a difference!

Video 3 – The Gambling Addiction Curve

Let’s Prepare You!

Nobody likes to admit flaws or problems. Consequently, problem gamblers often deny they have gambling issues. They are blaming everything else or think the problem is exaggerated.

When we talk about our weaknesses, we get extra sensitive to criticism. The way around that is to pay extra attention to our communication, and my sure we stick to facts and avoid communicating our opinions or analysis.

A good start is to read our article, “Can you win?”. You can also Google any of the following search terms:

  • “Online casino” (Understand the following terms: casino bonus, free spins, slot machines, live casino, and jackpots)
  • “Slot machines” (Play for free in Play Mode without opening any accounts)
  • “Poker” (The most popular game is Texas Hold’em.)
  • Blackjack in a bar.

When somebody with gambling problems contacts us, we begin with the following questions: What is gambling doing for you? What happens when you gamble? Notice how the questions are nonjudgmental. Instead, we show curiosity and a wish to understand what’s going on in the other person.

Example of an affiliate site.
Video 4 – Listen with Empathy

How To Get The Conversation Started

During this conversion, you have two tasks. First, to encourage the person to talk. Second, to keep the attention and focus on the personal experiences, feelings, and needs. (Here is an article about the mistake of losing focus) Use open-ended questions to get the conversation started. Remember, the person (at least deep inside them) wants to share; Nobody feels good about lying to the family and friends. Listen and let the person do the talking.[4]

We know it’s not easy, but giving someone one’s full attention listening without judging or analyzing is a precious gift. If you can do that (you’ll learn these techniques in the NVC course), you can create a real connection with the other person.

The way out of addiction begins with reconnecting. By making reality more meaningful, the escape becomes less attractive. The result? The urge to escape will decrease.

It’s not gambling the person is addicted to. It’s the escape from reality.
Gambling is just a way to escape.

Good Questions For A Gambling Addict To Get The Conversation Started:

  • What is gambling doing for you?
  • What happens when you gamble?
  • Does it create a moment of peace? Perhaps, that’s why it’s so hard to quit?
  • How does it feel to talk about it?
  • When did you start gambling? How did you feel then?
  • What was it that attracted you?
  • How did it feel when you started losing control?
  • Did anything particular happen around that time?
  • Do you want to quit gambling?
  • Do you want some support?
  • How do you want to continue from here?

Take Action – Step By Step.

About 80% of people with gambling problems don’t seek help. They might be ashamed, don’t want to attend a meeting, or don’t want to admit any problems. One reason we developed QuitGamble.com is to change that. We tried to lower the threshold to make it easy to begin.

QG is anonymous; a person doesn’t need to admit to problems or say that they are helpless and can start their journey at home. Instead of condemning, shaming, or putting guilt; We want to empower, create meaning and show them how important they are.

QuitGamble community images
Images from the Quit Gamble Community

We created QuitGamble.com to support you. Here
are a few features that might help you:

  • Guides like this and fun animated videos you can share with your relative.
  • The Happiness Test: helps the gambler to understand what causes them pain in their life. The test is the starting point and gives a plan for proceeding.
  • A social community of people who want to quit gambling and people who want to help a gambling addict. Chat, discuss and share experiences 24/7.
  • The Non-Violent Communication course. (And 14 other programs)

You’re a hero. You’re not alone anymore. We want to be there for you as much as we can.

We have structured the action list in 4 parts, starting with things you can do right now. We know it can be gratifying to put a checkmark on a list. TASK COMPLETED… so you can download a pdf and print the Next Action list if you want.

How To Help Someone With Gambling Problems
Let’s take action, starting with you. We recommend the following for you:

Focus On Yourself First.

  • Read through this guide.
  • Stick to your routines (take walks, meet with friends, cook food, workout…). Decide 3 things you’ll do only for yourself in the next 3 days.
  • Read through the Guides about “Addiction,” “Can you gamble and win?”, and “How they trick you.” They’ll give you a head start!
  • Sign up as a free member on QuitGamble.com to take advantage of the resources we provide.
  • Ask any questions you have to the members.
  • Read stories from other Affected others in our Relative Support Group.
  • Work through the Non-Violent Communication course. We can’t recommend it enough!
  • Please, read through the section about co-dependency again — list 5 things you’ll do to avoid becoming co-dependent.
  • Spend a few hours reading about online casinos, sports betting, and poker. It will give you a better understanding of the topic.

Put The Focus On The Person With Gambling Problems.

  • Pay attention to the person.
    • Is there anything wrong?
    • What warning signs can you identify?
    • Monitor the behaviour, any changes? Be attentive and write things down.
    • Put extra attention to things that regard money.
  • Ask questions about how the person is feeling.
  • Try to come up with ideas of things you can do together. That would distract both of you, and it gives you a chance to spend time together.
  • Ask another relative for help, perhaps a partner, close friend, family member, or co-worker. Share your concern and ask them to observe various warning signs. Recommend them to read through this guide as well.

Take The Conversion!

  • Sit down with the person. Tell him/her about your observations, feelings, and needs. Then ask him/her to tell you about what you’ve observed. If you need extra support, ask another relative to join the conversation.
  • Use open-ended questions to get the person talking. Avoid judgments and analysis, focus on the person’s feelings, and start building a connection. Start from the beginning.

Plan for the future

  • (You) You mustn’t lend out money to the person. If you cover up financially, the person will not take responsibility for his/her actions. You’re only doing them a disservice.
  • (Together) If he/she gambles online, install the Gamban app together. It’ll block all gambling sites.
  • Check if there are any ways to self-exclude of casinos in your country.
  • (Together) Encourage him/her to do the Happiness Test. After the test, sign up on QG together. You can create separate accounts to get the support both of you need.
  • (Together) If the person has a lot of debt with high- interest rates, help him/her find a person who can consolidate all loans into one big loan with a lower interest rate.
  • (Together) Plan a few social activities together and be outside in nature. Help the person to reconnect to nature and other people. For example, take long walks or go to the gym together.
  • (Together) Open up to other relatives together. They can also support you. It’s a myth that we are strong alone. WE ARE TRULY MUCH STRONGER TOGETHER!
  • (Together) There are physical support groups for gambling addicts like Gambler’s Anonymous in most countries. The 12-steps program at GA works for some people, and it could complement the work you do on QG.

Everybody needs to find a way to recover from a gambling problem. We don’t see GA, nor any other service that helps people with gambling problems as competitors. We’re all trying to help people, and if one method works for your relative, WE COULDN’T BE HAPPIER!

We hope you’ve found this guide on how to help a gambling addict useful. We’re looking forward to getting to know you better in the QG Community. Don’t hesitate to request a free membership.

If you liked this article, please share it with people you believe would find it helpful!
Good luck!

Sources:

[1] In a survey made by the Swedish Gambling Authority 2021, 27% of the participants answered that they had gambled in the past week. According to the Swedish health Authorities, 4% of the population has gambling problems, is at increased risk for gambling problems, or is at risk for gambling problems. An educated guess is that you’d find this 4% among the 27% who gambled last week. It means about 15% of them have/show some kind of gambling problem. In a report from 2018, the UK health authorities estimate that 3.8% of the population has/shows signs of gambling problems.


[2] The exact number of gambling addicts varies in each study you find online. In the Swedish survey by the Swedish Gambling Authority, 2% gambled each day, and 2% responded they gambled too much in the past year. An educated guess is that these people suffer from some kind of gambling problem or gambling addiction.

[3] Fort Behavioral Health

[4] The book: Nonviolent Communication – A language of life by Marshal Rosenberg