Whilst the media will often feature stories about the effect of drug or alcohol addiction, what is less frequently seen are stories regarding gambling addiction which can just as quickly and thoroughly destroy a person’s life. This is not because it is a less common addiction, but more I suspect due to the social acceptability of gambling. Well gambling doesn’t affect anyone other than the gambler does it? Wrong. It will affect the person, their loved ones, their employers, and in some circumstances wider society as a gambler can turn to theft when times are desperate.
So let’s clear up some other myths surrounding gambling addiction:
- Gambling only becomes a problem when you gamble every day. Wrong. Gambling can still be a problem even if it happens only once a year – it is not necessarily about the act of gambling, but more about the behaviours and feelings that go with it. A common known saying with any addiction is that if it is costing you more than money, then it is a problem. The same is true of gambling.
- Gambling is not a problem if the person can afford it. Wrong. Again, it is not only about the financial aspects of the addiction; gambling can become time consuming to the detriment of other important things in the person’s life such as their relationships, friendships or employment. Once gambling becomes more important than things that were previously important to the person, it is a problem.
- Those people in relationships with gamblers often put pressure on them and drive them to gamble. Wrong. Gambling is the same as any other addiction in this respect – it is much easier to blame someone else than it is to accept that the problem lies within. Attack is the best form of defence. No-one can make someone gamble, nor can they make them stop. It is down to the person with the problem to accept they have a problem, and accept they need help.
- Paying off a gambler’s debts will help them to get better. Wrong. This is what is known as enabling. By taking away the consequences of gambling, it prevents the person from experiencing any negative effects. Therefore, they have less reason to stop because they have the experience that when they get into difficulties, their loved one will help. This can be really hard for the family because it can involve watching the gambler go to quite a dark place – but until they have experienced these dark places, they will not understand the seriousness of the addiction.
Overcoming a gambling addiction is never easy, but recovery is possible as long as the right treatment and support is accessed.