Gambling, like any other addiction, has far reaching effects on one’s family and loved ones. The actions and consequences of a compulsive gambler in the family affects more than just the gambler. The impact level on the family depends on different factors such as how severe the problem is, how long it has gone on, how close the gambler is to the family. The entire family suffers as a result of the behaviour of the addict, and the related effects may completely weaken family functioning to the verge of collapse. Here are some of the ways gambling can affect families.
Breakdown in Family Relationships
The bond among family members can be destroyed or seriously affected by the resulting stress and tension from dealing with a compulsive gambler. It becomes intensely difficult for the spouse, children and other family members to trust the gambler, and feelings of security and confidence are lost. Constant lies and manipulation, threats, coming home late, staying late nights, violence and domestic abuse all add up to the breakdown in family relationships. The gambler himself may also directly contribute to the growing family isolation by avoiding family and friends and being secretive in order to mask feelings of shame felt as his behaviour gets more and more out of control. There is a high rate of divorce and spousal abuse in families where one member is dealing with this type of addiction.
Effects on the Children
A mother suffering from an addiction to gambling will naturally spend less time with her children as the addiction grows. Younger children may fail to comprehend the changing family situation and feel that they are somehow to blame. Studies show that children and teenagers living with and encountering the gambling behaviours of an addict may resort to gambling themselves. Young minds are affected when they constantly hear about big wins or big loses. Early exposure to gambling in the family may even cause children to develop even more addiction-related problems. Very often, adults who seek gambling addiction treatment or therapy say they picked up the habit at a very early age. Children of addicts have a high chance of suffering from depression, substance abuse issues and behavioural problems.
Consistent losses from incontrollable gambling affect family finances. The situation is compounded when well-meaning family members, including the spouse try to ‘help out’ by lending the gambler money, pay their bills or bail them out of financial difficulties. Providing money to the gambler is simply enabling his or her behaviour, prolonging the addiction and blocking any chance of recovery. In the end, the financial problems may become too great and the family may have to declare bankruptcy. Also, the home may be forced into foreclosure. There is more than just money at stake whenever a family member is addicted to gambling and completely squandered the family money chasing losses. Bills can no longer be paid because the gambler cannot contribute financially to the family, and everyone suffers.
It is possible for a family that has been negatively affected by a loved one’s gambling addiction to recover. The different channels of help include therapists, treatment centres or support groups. Couples and family therapy for gambling addicts can also help to improve the family relationship that has been broken down by the addiction.