Helping you get through tough times

Worried about someone who is gambling

Compulsive gambling is an addiction. According to the Rutland Centre, around one to three percent of the Irish population may be compulsive gamblers, the majority being men.

However, both women and young people are also seeking treatment for gambling problems.

Poker chips and cardsWhat’s compulsive gambling?

Compulsive gambling is when a person is unable to resist the impulse to gamble despite disruption and compromise in personal, family, social and work life.

How can you tell if your friend is a compulsive gambler?

Recognising compulsive gambling is difficult. Sometimes there are no obvious signs and it’s often a secret activity. Your friend may have a problem with gambling if they :

  • talk a lot about gambling and about finding money to gamble with
  • gamble because of the buzz it gives them
  • frequently spend increasing amounts on bets
  • take greater risks to achieve excitement
  • lose control over the time and money spent on gambling, eventually risking more than they can afford to lose
  • depend on gambling as a means of coping with anxiety, tension or stress
  • can’t admit there might be a problem
  • don’t seek help until they’re a year’s salary or more in debt.

What should you do?

If you’re worried about someone’s gambling talking to them can help. Start by telling them what you’ve seen and how you feel.

Try to avoid judging

Try not to be judgemental as it can alienate the friend you’re trying to help. Remember people who need help to manage their gambling may feel ashamed and not want to talk about it. By letting them know you’re not judging them they may be more likely to open up.

Know how to help

Suggest your friend talk to a counsellor about how they can manage their gambling. If they’re not ready to do that, suggest they attend a Gambler’s Anonymous meeting.

That way they can meet other people going through the same experience as themselves, and can talk about it as much or as little as they want.

See face-to-face help for more information about what help is available to your friend. Offer to go with them to a counsellor or support group if they’re nervous.

Mind yourself

Helping someone who isn’t ready to change their behaviour can be hard, and the decision to get help is ultimately theirs. Sometimes we get so concerned for someone else we stop looking after ourselves. It’s important you look after your own mental health and well-being.

Talk to someone you trust if you’re finding it hard to cope with your friend’s gambling addiction. See getting help for more.

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This article was last reviewed on 24 April 2017

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