What should we avoid saying or thinking about someone who is experiencing gambling harm?

‘Why don’t you just stop gambling?’

Gambling disorder is included in the DSM-V under behavioural addictions and impacts brain function in a similar way to experiencing harm from substances.

I understand that you might be finding it difficult to stop gambling, why don’t you think about organising a budget for yourself when you choose to gamble?

‘Your gambling only affects you’

Gambling harm does not only impact the individual. For every person experiencing harm from their own gambling, six others in their life are being negatively impacted.

Did you know that gambling harm impacts over 200,000 people in Scotland? You are not alone. Let’s have a chat about how we can support you.

‘What’s the worst that could happen? You lose some money?’

Gambling is not purely a financial harm. Gambling harm can impact someone’s mental, emotional and physical health and have detrimental impacts on relationships, employment and housing status.

Did you know that you can experience harms from gambling other than just losing money? Perhaps we could have a look at what other harms associated with gambling are together and explore your experiences of gambling.

‘You’re not spending all of your money, you can still afford your bills so you are not experiencing harm.’

You don’t have to spend all of your money and incur debt to be experiencing gambling harm. If someone is spending more money that they want to or can afford then gambling is or is becoming a financial harm in their life.

There is a Budget Tracker in this Toolkit you can use to keep note of how much money you are spending on gambling. We could also speak to your bank and ask them to calculate how much money you spent last month on gambling transactions and set up blocks and alerts for you.

‘You look fine’

Gambling is a hidden addiction, people are able to hide their gambling on their device or the harms they are experiencing are not as obvious as those experiencing harms from substances. You cannot assume someone is okay because you perceive them as looking in a fit state.

Gambling harm can also impact your mental and physical health. If someone you are supporting someone who is experiencing gambling harm, you could have a conversation about how their gambling is impacting their mental health, sleep or eating patterns.

‘You can’t be experiencing gambling harm - you only lost £10 on the slot machine!’

Newspapers tend to sensationalise stories of people losing large amounts of money, however for someone you are supporting £50 could be causing high levels of gambling harm if this is the money they have to support them for the week.

‘How do you have money to gamble?’

Research has shown a stark increase in the number of people gambling to supplement their income during the cost of living crisis. The common false hope of that big win that changes your life is a strong motivation for people choosing to gamble. The narrative that only affluent people can afford to gamble is incorrect.

The gambling industry targets people who live in low socioeconomic areas and who have less money. We could walk around your local area to count the gambling premises and advertisements to be aware of the environmental factors that you see every day. We could also create a list of activities you could get involved in instead of gambling.

‘At least you’re only gambling and not using substances’

Gambling harm can impact a persons health, finances and relationships similarly to substance use. The human body has no saturation point for gambling, which it does have for substances, meaning that gambling harm can continue for years unknown with no interventions or the person sharing what is happening in
their life.

People don’t try to drink their way out of a drink dependency but people experiencing gambling harm attempt to gamble their way out of their harm. Acknowledge that gambling is a harm and look at The Support Pathway together to organise the support that suits the person who is experiencing gambling harm.

‘Why did you not think about your family’

Stigma and victim-blaming is a massive barrier to accessing support and people experiencing gambling harm will already be dealing with feelings of guilt and shame. The language and tone we use can make the difference between someone feeling comfortable disclosing what they’re facing or shutting themselves off and not receiving the support they need.

Thank you for sharing with us that you are experiencing gambling harm. Let’s look at The Support Pathway together to explore the best support for you.

What should we avoid saying or thinking about someone who is affected by someone else’s gambling?

What we avoid saying

‘Why did you not stop them from gambling?’

We are unable to control the behaviour of another person. We can provide support, information and advice but we are unable to preside over another person throughout the whole day.

Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. Let’s first look after your welfare and then how we can support the person you know who is experiencing gambling harm.

Why should we avoid saying this?

'You look fine'

When someone is experiencing gambling harm, the impact on the mental health of those close to them can be profound. These harms include distress, anger, shame, hopelessness and insecurity or vulnerability. Avoid judging someone’s well being by how they look.

As someone experiencing harm from someone else’s gambling you might be feeling a wide range of emotions that could be impacting your mental health. Would you like to talk about them with me or perhaps we could find a support organisation that you might feel comfortable speaking to?

What should we say instead?

‘How did you not know they were gambling?’

Gambling is a hidden harm and often affected others do not find out about someone’s gambling harm until it has become severe. Debt and financial issues often come as a shock. It can be stigmatising language like this that prevents affected others coming forward for support.

Gambling harm is very hidden and is not something you can control for someone else. It is estimated that 7% of the general British public are affected others of someone else’s gambling. Thank you for sharing your experience, we can organise support for you and the person you are supporting who is experiencing gambling harm that will suit you both.