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Looking after yourself

When someone close to you has a gambling problem, it can throw your life out of balance.

Family and friends of people with gambling problems may experience:

  • health issues, including headaches, back pain, hypertension, asthma, palpitations and migraines
  • feelings of anxiety and depression
  • changes in eating and sleeping patterns due to stress
  • increased smoking and excessive drinking
  • financial worries
  • feelings of betrayal and loss of respect for the person who gambles
  • family violence.

Staying healthy and managing stress

Following normal routines and taking care of yourself is just as important as helping the person with the gambling problem. Maintain your friendships, continue with your interests and hobbies, and do things you find enjoyable.

To stay healthy and manage stress:

  • eat regular, balanced meals
  • try to make mealtime a family or social time
  • exercise regularly, try yoga or go for frequent walks
  • go to bed and get up at regular times
  • avoid alcohol and drugs – they can make matters worse
  • take time for your spiritual or religious needs
  • share your worries with friends and family that you can trust
  • get professional support for yourself and encourage the person with the gambling problem to also get support.

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Maintaining and restoring relationships

Problem gambling can put a terrible strain on relationships. When someone spends less time with you or doesn't fulfil their commitments, it can feel like they don't care.

You may have many mixed feelings. For example, you may be angry about the debt they've run up and afraid they won't stop gambling, yet want to help and support them.

It is important to rebuild trust, but remember it takes time. You could:

  • look for ways you still trust the person
  • encourage the person to be honest about their gambling urges, accept what you hear and reward honesty
  • talk together once a week, with openness about past hurts or future worries
  • take time to have fun together, without talking about gambling problems
  • consider going to a counsellor together.

If you are losing hope, it is important to seek professional help.