Gambling Addiction and Its Negative Impact on a Family

John Howard/Digital Vision/Getty Images

Similar to other addictions, compulsive gambling can affect every aspect of the addict’s life. This includes negative effects on personal well-being, social life and the family. Though not all gambling leads to addiction, it is important to remember that the possibility does exist. Understanding compulsive gambling and the role of the family can help everyone involved deal with the problem. Treatment usually includes counseling and a cessation of gambling.

What is Gambling Addiction?

Gambling occurs when you bet money for a chance to win more money. Signs that it has become an addiction include committing crimes to get money to gamble, lying about it or using it as a means of escape from stress or obligations, says an article published by the National Institute of Health. It is also considered an impulse control issue, which means that it may be difficult to stop once it becomes a problem. Pathological gambling can be just as damaging as addiction to drugs, alcohol or tobacco, according to an article on the KidsHealth website, so it's important to seek professional help when trying to quit.

How It Can Effect Finances

Having a gambling addiction can take a toll on the family finances. For example, an addict may choose to use money set aside for family necessities on a bet or to pay off a gambling debt. Once these funds are gone, a pathological gambler may resort to crime in order to pay bills and continue gambling, says Dr. Charles Wellford, a professor of criminology at the University of Maryland. This behavior can put even more stress on the family, and can lead to losing your home, acquiring loans that cannot be repaid and ruining your credit.

Relationship Problems

Gambling often coexists with other issues, such as substance abuse issues, depression and anxiety disorders, according to Dr. Marc N. Potenza and colleagues in an article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. These issues, along with the gambling, can lead to excessive arguing and general bad feelings between family members. The rates of divorce and spousal abuse are high in families where a member is dealing with this type of addiction.

Effects on Children

John Howard/Photodisc/Getty Images

A primary focus on gambling can result in inconsistent parenting, ignoring your child at times and being generally unavailable. Children of addicts are more likely to suffer from depression, behavioral problems and substance abuse issues because of these side effects, says Dr. Sanju George in an article published in the Journal of Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. Having a parent or family member who gambles is also a common reason for a teen to begin gambling as well, which can continue the cycle of addiction into the next generation.