Coping with your partner’s potential gambling problem

Coping with your partner’s gambling problem can be challenging especially if you don’t gamble yourself. Gambling like any other gaming activity is meant for intrigue and entertainment among peers and enthusiasts. In fact, gambling can be good for brain development as gamers employ various strategies to secure wins.

How to cope with a partners gambling problemA study published by the NCBI revealed that a habitual gamer is more likely to improve the brain’s integration of perceptual information and develop better hand-eye coordination. But there is a fine line between the casual gambler and gambling addiction. how-to-cope-with-a-gambling-partner

How to cope with a partners gambling problem

The casual gambler

Whether you both enjoy gambling or not, responsible gambling fosters better relationships between partners. Usually, a partner with a healthy gambling habit is nothing to be worried about but you need to be on the lookout for signs that your partner could be losing control and manage the situation as early as possible. One way to encourage responsible gambling is to help each other to set limits to the gambling so that you can only spend what you can afford to lose. The key is to stay open to communication and not be judgmental. That way your partner will always stay honest about his/her gambling.

Here are some quick tips that you can implement instantly:

  • Never judge or look down on your partner for gambling.
  • Be supportive, without encouraging more gambling.
  • Set weekly or monthly deposit limits to the casinos/betting sites that your partner is playing at. There are several trusted sites where you can do this.
  • Learn about gambling from your partner and discuss it together from a neutral standpoint. Is your partner playing for fun? To win?
  • Look out for signs of early gambling addiction.

When gambling becomes a problem

When someone becomes a problematic gambler, the thrill of an unknown outcome is replaced by an intense need to satisfy an unquenchable thirst to win such that the more they lose the more they want to bet. Problems associated with gambling addiction include financial ruin, depression, anger and violence. This can be both physically and emotionally devastating for the other partner, especially when resources are limited.

How to cope with a partners gambling problemA gambling addiction is as bad as any drug addiction and should be treated as such. Neuroscientists have discovered that drug and gambling addicts share genetic predispositions of reward-seeking and impulsivity. The American Psychiatric Association officially classified pathological gambling as an impulse control disorder in 1980 which enabled the medical community to recognize gambling addiction as a psychological illness.

There is significant evidence that drugs and gambling affect the same brain circuits similarly. Today, addiction is understood as the repeated pursuit of certain rewarding experiences despite debilitating repercussions. According to, approximately 2 million people in the U.S are problematic gamblers.

Coping mechanisms and strategies.

Like any addiction, there are many types of gambling addiction. The key to any successful intervention lies in identifying the type of addiction in order to effectively regulate the enabling environment. Understand the root of the problem because there always is a trigger.

Sometimes gambling begins as a coping mechanism against some challenge faced by the individual, for example a huge financial loss, depression or other tragedy in life. What begins as an escape route becomes a cycle of never-ending search for reprieve that only leads to further destruction.

Identifying the common signs of a gambling problem

A gambling addict will often:

  • Feel the need to be secretive about the gambling.
  • Have trouble controlling his/her urge to gamble even when they cannot afford to.
  • Be very defensive about the habit when people express concern.
  • Show anger towards themselves or other people after big losing sessions.
  • Playing for long hours into the night or having trouble to end a gambling session.
  • Lose more money than they can afford.
  • Loan money from their partner or friends to fund their gambling.

Natural rewards of pleasure include reproduction and eating while, unnatural rewards are driven by addictive behaviors and psychoactive substances. These unnatural rewards cause the individual to succumb to the feelings produced by online gambling. Over time, he/she develops abstinence, then tolerance and eventually withdrawal, which fuels the desire to use- in this case, to gamble.

According to Kuss and Griffiths, the decline in dopaminergic transporters in Internet gaming addiction may be responsible for depression, borderline personality, bipolar disorders and dissociative symptoms associated with gambling addiction.

What to do if your partner is showing signs of gambling addiction

The first thing is to never get angry or at least try not to show it. The addict should not feel like they are under attack over their habits, otherwise they will become extremely secretive and start to distant themselves from you.

You and your partner are a team. Be open with each other and try to work it out together. It can be very tough for someone to admit to themselves that they have a problem. It’s embarrassing, so you need to make sure that your partner feels as there is a safe space where they can open up.

Seek professional support

If the gambling is getting out of hand you need to seek professional help. Gambling addiction has emotional consequences for all affected members because its effects spread beyond the addicted individual. It is important for both you and your partner to get counselling together so as to get help in the context of your experiences and work towards a proper healing process. There are several good organizations such as Gamblers Anonymous, Gamcare or Begambleaware. Do not be afraid to contact these organizations. They are there to help.

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