Written by: Clara Panarella, M.Ed., Psychotherapist, Capital Choice Counselling Group
A Gambling Addiction is not just about losing money, it can affect a person’s whole life. It affects the person’s physical and mental health, work, school, and other activities. But perhaps most importantly it affects the relationship with a spouse and other family members. People who gamble are found in all age groups, genders, cultures, and occupations. As a caveat, it must be said that not all people who gamble, gamble excessively, nor are the problems they face the same.
However, if you are a spouse living with a gambler you are living a very stressful experience. You love this person and do not want to see your spouse suffer. You want to help, but at the same time, you feel helpless and frustrated. You too are suffering from all the negative effects of the Gambling Addiction, there is financial turmoil, marital discord because of the loss of trust, the lying and broken promises, and a lot of worrying about the future. This may lead to resentment, anger and loss of intimacy. If you are feeling overwhelmed you need emotional support and we strongly recommend sharing your burden with someone who is trustworthy and supportive, and who understands Gambling Addiction. A counsellor, who is trained in dealing with gambling issues, will help you regain control of the problems that the Gambling Addiction has caused in your family. There is no shame in seeking counselling for you and your spouse.
In therapy Gambling Addiction is addressed with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and couples are encouraged to attend therapy together. CBT is a structured, directive and collaborative therapy approach that deals with cognitive distortions about expectations, beliefs and perception that typically are associated with a Gambling Addiction. Some examples of cognitive distortion include “magical thinking “ like the illusion of control over luck, or the special power to manipulate luck, exaggerated self-efficacy and over-confidence in skills.
Do’s and Don’ts for a spouse and family members when dealing with Gambling Addiction in the family.
Be patient and give encouragement
Be understanding but firm in setting limits
Communicate openly and talk about your feelings
Take care of yourself
Protect your financial resources
Share your burden with a professional
Urge your spouse to get help and assist in finding the best support available
Try to control the Gambler
Do all the work for your spouse
Defend or enable
Yell or threaten
Useful Web Sites
www.gamblock.com how to block access to internet gambling
www.responsiblegambling.org Responsible Gambling Council of Ontario
www.indebt.org Ontario Credit Counselling Services
www.camt.org Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Capital Choice Counselling Group offers Addiction Services, to book an appointment call 613-425-4257. To book an appointment with or read more about the author, Clara Panarella, you can check out her profile here.