Bigger than the Bet: 3 Ways Problem Gambling Hurts the Ones You Love

Slots may be a one-on-one electronic game, and your sports bets may be between you and a bookie. But gambling is far more than an individual activity. When gambling gets the best of you (and your budget) It can have a profound effect on the people who you care about—and who care the most about you.

At the Nebraska Problem Gamblers Assistance Program, we’ve seen firsthand the impact gambling can have on a bettor’s friends and family. Beyond the financial toll gambling takes, excessive betting can hurt your emotional connections, strain your key relationships, and erode the trust your friends and family have in you.

Gambling causes emotional harm to your closest loved ones.

In a 2022 study of gambling-related harms to the “Concerned Significant Others” of those who gamble, researchers found that the commonly reported negative consequence for friends and family members was emotional harm. For these individuals, their loved ones’ gambling caused them “distress, hopelessness, anger, and shame.” Not only did the loved ones of these problem gamblers report multiple negative emotions, researchers found that these Concerned Significant Others also had poorer-than-average mental health.

Individuals who gamble excessively may isolate themselves from their loved ones, distancing their emotional connections. And the stress, hopelessness, anger, guilt, and shame caused by out-of-control gambling can deeply impact both those who gamble and their significant others.

Excessive gambling can ruin relationships.

The 2022 Concerned Significant Others study also revealed that excessive gambling hurts relationships by increasing conflict and reducing enjoyment in the relationship. In other words, when gambling becomes a problem in your life, it can lead to more tension and less fun in the relationships that mean the most to you.

Over time, the heated clashes caused by gambling and financial stress can strain your relationships—pushing even your closest family relationships and friendships to the breaking point. And that’s not the only negative effect on relationships. When gambling leaves you distracted, or frequently takes you away from home, your significant other may have to take on added responsibilities, like household chores, parenting, or even earning extra money to cover family debt. These extra burdens add up, further stressing and straining the people you care about.

Losing important relationships is one of the key signs of gambling that has progressed from pastime to problem—and needs to be addressed.

Problem gambling breaks down trust.

Trust is the cornerstone of every healthy relationship. But if gambling repeatedly takes your rent money, grocery budget, or savings, your loved ones may struggle to trust you—or believe you have your family’s wellbeing in mind. Especially for those who keep asking their friends and family for more money to cover gambling debts or place another bet.

Misleading friends and family about gambling activities, your earnings and losses, and the frequency of your gambling can further undermine their trust. And rebuilding this trust can be a long, complicated process that takes real effort, accountability, and a commitment to change.

When gambling impacts those you care about, the Nebraska Problem Gamblers Assistance Program can help.

We believe no bet is worth losing your friends and family over. For the sake of your closest relationships—and your own wellbeing—take control of your gambling with free, confidential help from the support team at the NPGAP. Our assistance program and support is available for every Nebraskan struggling with gambling, or supporting someone who is.

You can connect with Helpline Specialist Justin Antons (MA, LIMHP, LADC, CDGC) by calling 1-833-BETOVER (238-6837) or texting 402-806-7344. He’s worked with hundreds of NPGAP clients across Nebraska, and he can help you (and the ones you love) too.

Take action now. Contact NPGAP today.


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