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When Relationships Fall Victim to Problem Gambling
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Many celebrate love, romance, and relationships during February and on Valentine’s Day. While no relationship is perfect, some endure significant hardship due to the presence of addiction, and gambling addiction is no exception. Did you know that relationship problems have been the top reported reason for seeking help by contacts to the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine for more than a decade? Contrary to social stigmas, individuals who struggle with problem gambling are not able to simply stop. Gambling addiction rewires the brain much in the same way as substance abuse, yet the symptoms are unseen, leaving loved ones unaware until the gambler hits “rock bottom.” Feelings like shame, guilt, and stress also flood these individuals and leave them hiding the consequences of problem gambling, exacerbating relationship difficulties and preventing them from seeking needed supports. Family members and other loved ones often do not know the extent of the gambler’s behaviors or debt. Over the past year, 76% of 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine contacts reported the presence of family conflict, and 52% indicated family neglect as a result of problem gambling, with some also experiencing domestic violence and abuse [1]. It is imperative to understand that for every case of problem gambling, an average of 8-10 additional people are affected — often those closest to the gambler.  Research published in the Asian Journal of Gambling Issues and Public Health found that the negative effects of their partner’s gambling problems centered on four key areas — financial loss, emotional distress, impairment of mental and physical health, and erosion of their relationship [2]. Complicating matters further, the COVID-19 pandemic is causing heightened levels of emotional distress and mental health impacts across the population, leaving those suffering from this hidden addiction even more vulnerable. HelpLine data shows that a large percentage of problem gamblers are experiencing significant anxiety (68%) and depression (67%), with more than one in five admitting to suicidal thoughts (22%) and an appreciable number (13%) reporting neurological disorders. These mental health issues understandably extend to family members and loved ones.  The good news is that help and hope can be found through the 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine for anyone in need, including loved ones. The HelpLine can also be reached by texting 321-978-0555, starting a live chat at gamblinghelp.org, emailing fccg@gamblinghelp.org, and messaging the FCCG on social media. Get connected to the resources that make a difference, including referrals to certified treatment providers! March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), a grassroots effort to raise awareness about gambling disorder, classified by the American Psychiatric Association as a behavioral addiction, that impacts millions of Floridians who struggle directly with gambling related difficulties or are adversely affected by a loved one’s gambling problem. This year, our campaign theme is Shine the Light on Problem Gambling: Changing the Game. During this past year, the world has been forced to grapple with crippling impacts caused by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Many Florida residents, like many Americans, are struggling given the unforeseen consequences resulting from the pandemic. For disordered gamblers and their families, the effects of the virus can exacerbate already serious financial, psychological, legal, and other problems caused by gambling. Click here to learn more about PGAM and join the movement in raising awareness about the issue of problem gambling and the help and hope available through the 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual Problem Gambling HelpLine! [1]  24-Hour Problem Gambling HelpLine Annual Report., 2020 ed., The Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc., 2020, 24-Hour Problem Gambling HelpLine Annual Report. [2] Abbott, M., DA. Abbott, S., Boyatzis, R., V. Braun, V., EM. Chan, A., Charmaz, K., . . . Volberg, R. (1970, January 01). Impacts of gambling problems on partners: Partners’ interpretations. Retrieved February 11, 2021, from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/2195-3007-3-11
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