Problem gambling is a quiet, sometimes invisible problem. Unlike those individuals with alcohol or drug abuse problems, people having issues with gambling may not show any physical signs of a problem. A family member with a gambling problem can often go undetected until a legal, financial or emotional crisis occurs.
With the introduction of electronic gambling, spouses and family members frequently do not suspect their loved one has a gambling problem. Individuals who play electronic games tend to develop problems more quickly than people who choose other forms of gambling do.
Warning Signs of a Gambling Problem in your Family
- Neglecting family and work.
- Becoming less reliable.
- Picking fights or arguments more frequently.
- Increased levels of anxiety or feelings of depression.
- Lying to cover up financial problems and money-related information, or generally becoming more secretive, and controlling of the family finances.
- Depleting bank accounts or cashing in bonds, RRSPs, insurance policies, lines of credit.
- Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
The Emotional Impact
Whether you have just discovered a gambling problem or have been living with it for a while, you may feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the problems. Questions you may be asking yourself:
- "How could my spouse/partner do this to me, to our family, to our future?"
- "How am I going to put my life back together?"
- "How am I going to pay the bills?"
- "How could I have believed all those lies?"
- "How can I ever trust this person again?"
- "How can I love this person ever again?"
- "Who should I talk to about this?"
Take the time you need to sort through your feelings. It is important that you look after yourself and find the help and support you need.
The Financial Impact
Before seeking help, many problem gamblers accumulate thousands of dollars of debt. Financial losses are always felt by the whole family, and create long term financial issues for the gambler and the family.
Protect yourself and your family by safeguarding your family's financial resources, your home and possessions, and other financial assets. You can begin protecting yourself financially by:
- Establishing separate bank accounts.
- Assessing your partner's access to money.
- Knowing your long-term assets and investments.
- Determining your average monthly family income and expenses.
- Listing all valuable possessions accessible to the gambler.
- Knowing what debts you are liable for.
You are not alone. Many families just like yours have experienced similar problems and have sought help.
You are not to blame for what has happened within your family and you are not responsible for changing your family member's behaviour. You must take responsibility for your own behaviour and attitudes, and for personally feeling better. You can start this process by:
- Acknowledging the problem.
- Regaining control of finances, budgeting and maintaining or establishing family routines.
- Talking to someone, and accepting support.
- Planning for you and your family's emotional needs.
- Establishing a "safety net" of supportive family, friends and community support agencies.
Call the Problem Gambling Help Line at 1-800-306-6789, or talk to a problem gambling counsellor at your local health region.