Do’s and Don’ts


When a loved one has a gambling problem, it can be confusing. You may not even know they have a problem. Or you may feel like you’re completely in the dark and unsure of what to do.

It is normal to feel confused, afraid, angry, upset or lonely. You may even have feelings of guilt, shame or regret. These feelings – and others – are very normal, but they can still be unhealthy. Below is a life of things to do to help you regain control of your emotions (and your life):

  • Get educated – Learn everything you can about problem gambling, including: warning signsnegative impacts, and options for help and recovery.1
  • Seek support – Talk with someone you can trust (family, friends, clergy, etc.) or a counselor or therapist,1 and attend support groups such as Gam-Anon to seek the support of others with similar problems.2
  • Inform your children – If the gambler has children, speak to the children about the problem, conveying certain key messages using age appropriate language.1
  • Keep your cool – Stay calm when discussing the gambler’s behavior and its consequences.1
  • Recognize the gambler’s good qualities.1
  • Tell the gambler that you are seeking help for your own sake because of the way gambling has impacted your family2
  • Acknowledge the gambler’s need for treatment and remember that change takes time, effort, and often several attempts to be successful.1
  • Understand the need for treatment of problem gambling despite the time it may involve.2
  • Read Personal Financial Strategies for the Loved Ones of Problem Gamblers3 and, if possible, consider controlling the gambler’s finances for a time.

During and after the devastation wrought by a gambling addiction, it can be a struggle not to lash out at the gambler. But making the gambler feel bad/worse about their addiction won’t help anyone, and can even make the problem worse. As you work to regain control of your lives, avoid the following actions:

  • Lecturing, accusing, preaching or getting angry with the gambler1
  • Giving threats or issuing ultimatums (unless you plan to follow through)1
  • Excluding the gambler from the family or activities2
  • Acting as if you are a better person than the gambler1
  • Gambling together1
  • Lending the gambler money or “bailing them out” of financial troubles2
  • Expecting immediate recovery2
  • Anticipating that all of the problems will disappear the moment the gambler stops gambling2
  • Covering up or denying the existence of the problem2

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