Problem gambling impacts children and families negatively

Problem gambling impacts children and families negatively

November marks Responsible Gambling Month and will be commemorated until 10 December 10 to coincide with 16 Days of Activism against women and child abuse.

November Responsible Gambling Month (NRGM) aims to educate the public about the potential harmful effects of problem and addictive gambling, while offering free confidential treatment and counselling to those negatively affected by a gambling disorder.

The potential harmful effects of problem gambling are often displayed in many ways, and one of the most concerning is when the gambling problem or addiction negatively impacts children and families.

Children often find themselves in vulnerable environments with exposure to multiple social ills due to a parent or caregiver having a gambling addiction, which leads to child neglect.

Understating a problem gambler

Problem gambling can simply be defined as gambling behaviour that disrupts your daily life and does so continuously, despite negative consequences or a desire to stop. While problem gambling was previously classified as an impulse control disorder, it is now viewed as a process or behavioural addiction.

A problem gambler often has a high tolerance threshold promoting them to gamble more, as it stimulates their endorphins – chemicals produced by the body to relieve stress and pain. This gives them the feeling of a rush or the feeling of winning or an almost win.

Problem gamblers can also display withdrawal symptoms similar to substance withdrawal, and show signs of preoccupation and irritability when unable to gamble. A problem gambler may display one or more co-morbid psychiatric illnesses if they are more vulnerable, such as mood disorder, substance addiction and personality disorders.

Negative impact of problem gambling on a child

The children and families of problem gamblers often begin to experience the behavioural impact of either active aggression or passive neglect due to the anxiety caused by the gambling addiction. This could manifest in verbal and physical abuse, emotional abuse caused by lying and manipulation, financial abuse and debt, and not being able to provide for the basic needs and necessities of children such as food, clothes and the payment of school fees. Passive neglect may include time lost at a gambling establishment and missing out on significant life moments or children often left alone for hours.

Getting help

There are several ways in which a problem gambler or families impacted negatively by the harmful effects of problem gambling can seek help. The first step would be to contact the South African Responsible Gambling Foundation’s toll-free confidential treatment and counselling line by calling 0800 006 008 or by WhatsApping “help” to 076 675 0710.

The National Gambling Act also makes provision for gamblers to self-exclude themselves for a duration of time and get treatment and counselling before being granted self-exclusion upliftment status. The other extreme alternative is for families to affect third-party exclusion.