“Why Can’t They Just Stop Gambling?” Posted On

“The money is all gone. Why can’t my husband just stop gambling?”

“She’s already lost her house. What else will my sister risk?”

“He’s not doing well in school and he never sees his friends anymore. Why won’t my child stop gambling?”

“I know I need to, but why can’t I stop gambling?”

It’s a common question asked by compulsive gamblers, their family members and their friends. It seems like it should be easy. It seems like you should just be able to wake up and say, “I’m not going to the casino today” or “When I go grocery shopping, I’ll push my cart right past the lottery tickets.”

But for many people, it’s not that easy. It’s not that simple. Those with a gambling disorder are psychologically unable to control their gambling, and often, treatment is required for an individual to stop and keep them from gambling in the future.

What is Gambling Addiction?

According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, a gambling disorder is “a progressive addiction characterized by increasing preoccupation with gambling, a need to bet more money more frequently, restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop, ‘chasing’ losses, and loss of control manifested by continuation of the gambling behavior in spite of mounting, serious, negative consequences.”

Understanding problem gambling can be very difficult, and it can take a lot of research, reading and conversations with counselors to accept that your gambling, or the gambling of someone you know, is the result of an addiction, just as people become addicted to things such as drugs and alcohol.

It’s not that your family member doesn’t want to stop.

Addiction is keeping them from stopping.

Luckily, help is available. Counselors are trained to understand what the underlying causes of addiction are for many individuals. They can help you understand these issues, what triggers you to gamble, and how to solve these issues so you can avoid the urge to seek out gambling opportunities.

You might be surprised to know that problem gamblers aren’t constantly gambling just in a pursuit of money. Many people in recovery say the same thing: “It’s not about the money.” For people addicted to gambling, the act of the activity – pulling the slot machine lever, scratching off the ticket, awaiting the result of a sporting event – provides a high and an escape, just as drugs and alcohol do. It provides a feeling only activated by gambling.

How Can I Help?

First, you must make sure you are taking care of yourself. Dealing with the addiction of a family member or friend can have a heavy toll on your own emotions. You may feel frustrated and stressed, or you may feel guilty for not being able to end this addiction sooner. Make sure you are getting the help you need. There are many support groups for family members and friends of people struggling with addictions. Gam-Anon’s support groups focus on these individuals so people can share their stories and realize they are not alone.

Your family member or friend may be ready to seek help, but they may reject it as well. While you may try to speak with them and offer your assistance in connecting them to a counselor, we realize that these situations can be filled with frustration, anger and sadness. Do not put yourself in a position that will harm your living situation. For help with how to address your family member or friend, we recommend you reach out to counselors who can work with you based on your specific situation.

As always, help is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week. Call the NYS HOPEline at 1-877-8-HOPENY to reach professionals able to provide support and guidance to anyone affected by addiction.