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What to do when your friends are gambling

By: Dr Anastasia Hronis (clinical psychologist) & Natalie Winiarski (research assistant)

Changing your relationship with gambling can be hard when your friends also gamble.

For many people gambling is, or at least starts out as a social activity. However, seeing your friends gamble can trigger associations with past gambling behaviour and increase the urge to gamble again. It's crucial to strike a balance between maintaining your relationships and safeguarding your well-being. This article provides some tips as to how to handle social situations and friendships, without compromising on your own values and boundaries regarding gambling.

1. Reflect on Your Boundaries

Take some time to reflect on your own boundaries. Understand what you want your relationship with gambling to be like, as it can be easy to sometimes be persuaded by other people. Think about what makes you uncomfortable and what you're willing to tolerate. Whether its setting limits on the time you spend on or around gambling, talking about gambling, or money spent on gambling, having a clear understanding of your own boundaries will help you communicate these effectively with others and ensure you're taking care of your own mental and emotional health.

2. Communicate with Your Friends

Consider initiating discussions with your friends, where you can share your boundaries around gambling. Think about having these conversations in a way that is open and non-judgmental about their gambling. Express your concerns genuinely and focus on your feelings using “I” statements rather than pointing fingers. For example, say, "I've noticed that we've been spending a lot of time at the casino lately, and it's making me feel uneasy. Can we talk about it?" Consider also reaching out to external supports such as other friends, family or joining support groups to openly share your struggles, get advice, and connect with others in a similar situation to you.

3. Suggest Non-Gambling Activities

Propose alternative activities that don't involve gambling or gambling-related venues to socialise. Plan a movie night, go hiking, or organize a game night at home. By offering engaging alternatives, you're not only diverting your friends' attention from gambling but also reinforcing the idea that your relationship doesn't have to revolve around gambling.

4. Reduce your Risks When Your Friends Are Gambling

Plan ahead by reducing financial risk factors when you are around your friends gambling, such as limiting the amount of money you take out with you, leaving credit cards at home or block gambling transactions on your card. Consider thinking of a few easy exit strategies to draw upon when you find yourself in a situation where friends are gambling. It could be as simple as saying “it’s been great catching up, but I’ve got an early morning tomorrow. I’ll catch you all later” or excusing yourself to engage in a different activity. This non-confrontational approach can help uphold your boundaries around gambling while maintaining a positive atmosphere with your friends.

5. Removing Yourself When Friends Gamble

If your friends continue to engage in problematic gambling despite your efforts to communicate your boundaries, consider whether you can be around your friends when they are gambling. You might have to make the decision to not attend certain gambling venues/social outings temporarily or permanently if being around your friends gambling serves as a trigger for you to gamble. Consider setting firm boundaries and, if necessary, distancing yourself from those activities which cross your boundaries. You may also try to spend more time with people who are supportive of your boundaries around gambling or shares your commitment around gambling.

Overall, navigating friendships when your friends are gambling requires a balance of communication, setting clear boundaries and understanding. Remember that your feelings are valid, and it's okay to prioritize your mental health in the process of navigating these complex dynamics.

All of this can be difficult, but you do not have to do so alone. For more support on this topic or any gambling issue you might want to talk about, call Gambler’s Help 1800 858 858 or visit our Find Support page for more options.

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