If you know someone with a gambling problem, there are ways you can help them. It’s important to remember that only the person who gambles can change their behaviour, but you can encourage them to get help. You can also help by setting boundaries, such as managing family finances until they’re gambling-free, or by putting restrictions on their credit and EFTPOS cards so they can only spend what they have available to them.
People who gamble have different reasons for their addiction. For some, it’s about escapism and the thrill of winning. Others have a strong need for status and social recognition, which can be reinforced in casinos by elaborate marketing and rewards programs. Still others have a basic need for pleasure. In fact, research shows that gambling activates the same areas of the brain as drugs do – releasing the reward chemical dopamine.
In addition to the individual and family impacts of gambling, it can have community and societal impacts. These impacts can be categorized as financial, labour and health, or well-being. Financial impacts include gambling revenues, effects on tourism and the impact on other industries. Labour impacts can be changes in work performance or absenteeism, while health and well-being impacts include gambling’s effect on mental health and physical wellbeing.
Gambling also contributes to communities by bringing people together in shared activities, such as charity casino nights or poker tournaments. For sports fans, betting on their favourite team or horse can also build a sense of community spirit. These positive community effects are enhanced when gambling is conducted responsibly.
It can be difficult to talk to a friend or relative about their gambling, but it is essential to have an honest and open discussion. It’s important to let them know you are concerned and that you want to support them. Often, they will be relieved to have the conversation and will be more open to discussing their options. The next steps may be to suggest self-help strategies or peer support, or to encourage them to seek professional gambling treatment if necessary. A counsellor can help a person with their gambling issues by helping them learn to recognise and address unhealthy thoughts, behaviours and irrational beliefs that contribute to their addiction. They can also teach a person to manage triggers, such as stress or depression, which can make their gambling worse. Many compulsive gamblers have co-occurring mental health disorders, so a counsellor can also advise if medication may be helpful. Lastly, a counsellor can educate people about the risks and consequences of gambling. They can also provide information on local support services. This can be very beneficial to the community, as it will help to reduce the stigma around gambling problems. The more information people have about the dangers of gambling, the more likely they will be to seek help if they become affected by it.