Many gamblers would have heard this. The psychology of gambling addiction can be hard to understand and empathise with, after all there is no substance, no cigarettes, no alcohol. Recent research, particularly neurological studies, have shown that behavioural addictions are just as overwhelming to the addict as those associated with chemicals or substances. The same reward pathways in the brain are ‘hijacked’, for example the impact on the brain and release of chemicals is the same for a binging gambling addict as a binging cocaine addict.
In 2013, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) reclassified this behavioural addiction, no longer as a Impulse Control Disorder, but as a Gambling Disorder. With reclassification, came a new way to diagnosis gambling disorder. More information can be found by clicking here.
Bear in mind that the gambler may not be processing and evaluating their gambling behaviour and harms the way you are. They may be resistant to the possibility that gambling is compromising their health and wellbeing. The very thought of being 'addicted' to a non-substance behaviour may trigger feelings of shame and embarrassment.
"Affected others can be as impacted by the gambling habits of another person, as the gambler themselves. Particularly if there is a financial, relationship or professional connection. Gambling can cause breakdown in communication and trust, leading to the gambler shielding the true extent of the harms they are experiencing, and eventually exacerbating the problem." (Frankie Graham, CEO)
For harms to emerge, it is possible that the gambling has been on-going for some time. The gambler’s beliefs and attitudes towards gambling may be long held and deeply engrained. It may take a combination of professional treatment, recovery planning, and the help of a support network to help them begin the process of moving away from harmful gambling.
It may come as a huge shock to discover that someone close to you has developed a gambling addiction. It is possible that you suspected that ‘something’ was not right, it may even come as relief to finally understand what the cause of concern is. However, it would also be quite understandable to consider what impact this may have on you. There may be particular concerns around relationships, financial and trust issues.
Please do consider talking to someone as soon as possible.
Coming soon: affected others download resource
When a gambler discloses, a reasonable question may be, is this a full disclosure? Is there more to come?
Your circumstances may be unique, but we have found that the following may be a useful starting point to help formulate a ‘safeguard plan’ for you and other potential ‘affected others’.
Perhaps the most important starting point, and maybe the hardest, is to listen. There will naturally be a sense of shock, hurt, fear even, but listening to what is being disclosed will allow for two things; firstly, encourage a person who is unburdening a huge secret - one surrounded with guilt and shame, - to expose what is going on for them as much as they can at that stage. This will encourage them to disclose again when they are ready. Secondly, it will provide information as to the potential harms that have been triggered, this will help with the next points of the safeguard plan.
Put immediate safeguards on financial accounts and services. This would include bank and saving accounts and loans, mortgages, and items of value that may provide collateral for loans. Please do not loan or provide resources that may enable more gambling. More gambling is not the solution.
If you are able to discuss gambling issues, then safeguards, or self-exclusions, should be put in place as a soon as possible. These will form a ‘barrier’ to gambling and provide a level of protection. There are multiple national schemes, which include forms of gambling in land base premises, or remotely, such as websites or gambling apps.
Consider ways to safeguard other ‘vulnerable’ places, such as email accounts, IT devices, ID and personal items.
Please do strongly consider contacting a support service for help. The call is for you, as well as for the person who has gambled.
Get help for a loved one or someone you know who is suffering from gambling-related harm.