Are you having trouble managing your emotions?
If you know or suspect a family member or friend is experiencing gambling harm, it’s common to feel a mix of emotions. You may feel angry, fearful, hopeless, guilty, betrayed, or like you can’t trust them anymore. Remember to prioritise your own self-care and figure out how to manage your own feelings. This can help you to support your family member or friend, but most importantly, it will allow you to come to terms with the situation and begin to make a plan for yourself.
Why is managing your emotions important?
When someone discovers that their family member or friend has been experiencing gambling harm, it’s common to feel some intense emotions, especially if feelings of betrayal and a loss of trust are involved. On the one hand you may want to support the person to get help. On the other hand, you may feel like you need to protect yourself from future betrayal or other negative consequences. It can be especially upsetting if they refuse to acknowledge the harm caused by gambling, refuse to work on their gambling, or refuse to seek help.
While you have the right to feel this way, these emotions usually don’t help the situation. Sometimes, these feelings can make it even harder to deal with what's happening. Focussing on managing your feelings can help lessen the impact of your family member or friend's gambling. It will also make you better able to help them in the long run.
Remember, you are only responsible for your own behaviour and your family member or friend is responsible for their behaviour. Understanding this can be a helpful first step in addressing the situation.
How can you manage your emotions?
It's common to feel angry when someone you care about is experiencing gambling harm, especially if they have lied or kept it secret. You may feel angry about the financial problems caused by their gambling or because you’re living with day-to-day stress of their gambling. You might also feel angry if they don't seem interested in changing their gambling or getting help. However, anger can cloud your judgement and make it harder to deal with the consequences of their gambling. Managing anger doesn't mean ignoring it or pushing it away. It means understanding why you feel angry and finding healthy ways to express it. You can do this by taking a moment to think before you speak, talking to your family member or friend once you're calm, looking for solutions, and accepting the things you can't change. You might also practice a conversation with your family member or friend with a trusted friend or family member, peer or counsellor and seek their feedback on your approach. Getting some exercise, taking a time out, and finding a way to relax can also help – see Focusing on Health and Wellbeing.
Feeling hopeless is a normal reaction when someone close to you is experiencing gambling harm, particularly if they don’t want to change or get help. But it's important to remember that people can and do recover from gambling problems. A Cochrane review has shown that gambling symptom severity, gambling losses, gambling frequency, depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms decrease after psychological treatment. Try your best to remain hopeful and encourage your family member or friend to seek help, as recovery is possible.
It's normal to feel guilty or blame yourself when a family member or friend experiences harm from their gambling. You might think you should have noticed it earlier or done something to prevent it. It’s important to remember that they may have tried to hide the extent of their gambling from you and that it’s common for us to justify the behaviour of people we care about. Don't be too hard on yourself and try to focus on getting some help for yourself so that you can support your family member or friend to change their behaviour or get some help.
It can be upsetting to find out someone you care about has been gambling in secret. It’s important to remember that they may not have been deliberately trying to hurt you or anyone else and to consider why the gambling was kept hidden and to reflect on the betrayal within the broader context of your relationship. Getting over the feeling of being betrayed usually involves facing what happened, recognising your emotions, focusing on your own needs and getting help from others.
It can be hard when you can’t be absolutely certain if your family member or friend’s gambling is under control. Once trust has been broken it can be difficult to rebuild. If you decide to try to rebuild trust, it's important for your family member or friend to be honest about their finances and behaviour. This could mean creating a shared financial plan and sticking to it, or making sure both people have access to joint bank accounts and review them regularly. The goal is to be transparent and open about money management to rebuild trust and prevent future gambling issues.
When you’re trying to manage your emotions, it can help to gain an understanding of how your family member or friend developed harmful gambling (see Factors That Contribute To Harmful Gambling), why they gamble (see Why People Gamble), and why they may not be ready to change (see Stages of Change).
Helping other people manage their gambling can be tough. You can find support options that are free and confidential through various counselling services. Visit our sections on Seeking Support and Support and Counselling Options for more information.
Do you want more help?
These services are available to support anyone affected by gambling harm, including family members or friends like you. Family members and friends can play an important role in people’s gambling recovery. To learn more about how you can support someone else change their gambling, go to our sections on Having the Conversation and Supporting Change.
Do you want information about managing mental health?
This page is designed for people who are helping a loved one with gambling harm. If you're a professional or someone experiencing gambling harm who would like to learn more about managing mental health and wellbeing, take a look at this page instead:
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