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Compulsive Gambling: You Aren’t Just Harming Yourself

Posted at August 23, 2009 | Categories : Articles,Gambling | 0 Comment

You may think your pathological gambling only affects you, but it is likely that 10 to 15 other people will be adversely impacted by your actions, according to a report in The International Journal of Neuropsychiatric Medicine. While parents, siblings and co-workers will all be affected, those most significantly impacted are your partner and children.

The report, titled “The Effect of Pathological Gambling on Families, Marriages, and Children,” found that more than 80 percent of people surveyed reported marital problems or lack of time for their children. That makes sense given a compulsive gambler’s tendency toward anti-social behavior, lying and preoccupation with gambling.

When Does Gambling Become a Problem?

Pathological gambling is more than just an occasional trip to the local race track or casino. It’s an impulse-control disorder that makes you feel compelled to keep gambling, even if you have nothing left to gamble with. Signs of compulsive gambling include:

  • Taking increasing gambling risks
  • Lying to hide gambling
  • Feeling a thrill from taking big gambling risks
  • Experiencing guilt or remorse after gambling
  • Borrowing money or stealing to gamble
  • An inability to cut back on gambling

The symptoms of compulsive gambling affect more than just you. They can prevent those closest to you from having meaningful relationships with you, causing you to miss out on their lives and yours.

Risk of Passing It Down

Studies have shown that children of pathological gamblers are more prone to becoming gamblers themselves. Eighty percent of teens with gambling problems had at least one parent who gambled, according to the “Pathological Gambling” report. With the rise in Internet gambling, it is becoming easier for your children to model their behavior after you and become pathological gamblers themselves.

Increased Risk of Other Disorders

Relatives of pathological gamblers are at a greater risk for alcohol and substance abuse, mood disorders and other psychiatric disorders. Studies have suggested that having a compulsive gambler in the family induces psychiatric disorders in relatives in reaction to the gambler’s behavior. However, there may also be a prevalence of mental illness and addictive disorders in the families of compulsive gamblers.

Increased Financial Difficulties

If you are a pathological gambler, there is a good chance you have made a dent in your family’s financial resources. It may have even become bad enough that you have had to declare bankruptcy. Compulsive gamblers put their partners at serious financial risk, despite the fact that they may not intend to.

Pathological gambling can lead to massive credit card debt, illegal loans and multiple mortgages, which can result in savings accounts being drained or even eviction. The long-term effects on your family may be irreversible, as your partner struggles to pay off acquired debt and your children must find alternative ways to pay for college. While your family may try and help you make your way out of your financial struggles, it is common for them to feel angry and helpless and leave you on your own.

Higher Rate of Violence

Partners and children of pathological gamblers experience high rates of physical and verbal abuse. Women whose partners are compulsive gamblers are 10.5 times more likely to be victims of domestic violence than if the partner is not a gambler, according to the “Pathological Gambling” report. If the gambler is also an alcoholic, women are more than 50 times more likely to experience domestic violence.

Though violence is more prominent in families with a pathological gambler, the reasons behind the violence are unclear, according to the report. While the violence could be related to the gambler’s antisocial behavior, mood disorder or substance abuse, it could also be linked to poor impulse control, aggressiveness or low frustration tolerance. In any instance, you should be aware that your compulsive gambling can cause more harm to your family than you think.

Poor Mental and Physical Health

The mental and physical health of your partner and children are likely to suffer because of your pathological gambling. Partners will often feel anger or resentment, depression, or guilt about contributing to the gambling and isolation. Your partner may also suffer from such physical symptoms as chronic headaches and stomach ailments due to stress. Your sexual relationship with your partner is also likely to be affected.

Your children are apt to feel angry about your behavior. They may also feel depressed, confused, hateful, shameful, helpless and abandoned. These are not things you want your kids to feel about you, which is another reason why it is important to seek treatment for your disorder.

Loss of a Parent or Spouse

The greatest effect your compulsive gambling has on your family is that it causes you to be absent from their lives. The time you would put into fostering those relationships is instead spent sitting at a poker table or finding ways to access more money.

Finding Treatment for Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling is a disorder that requires treatment. Gambling addiction treatment centers like Sierra Tucson provide safe, therapeutic environments that allow you to become aware of your disorder and the effect it has on your loved ones. These centers can provide treatment for any co-existing addictions or behavioral disorders. Sierra Tucson also provides relapse prevention planning for you and your family so that you can again become the partner and parent you set out to be.


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