Partners, family members and friends often ring the Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) wanting advice about how to talk to their loved ones about their gambling. Many times they want to talk about how to begin the conversation.
Other times the family member or significant other admits gambling has been an ongoing discussion topic that, from the caller’s point of view, goes nowhere.
Some of the common issues for the callers who have had several attempts at a conversation are:
- The person who is gambling blocks the conversation:
‘As soon as I start talking about his gambling, he shuts down and won’t talk to me. I never get anywhere’.
- The person who is the gambler gets angry:
‘We are all too scared to talk to her about her gambling because she goes ballistic whenever we mention it. We’ve learned just to accept it and not say anything’.
There may be good reasons for this kind of reaction, and it is all about the feelings that come up for a person who is having a gambling problem. Often when they are approached about gambling, they will have intense feelings of shame, embarrassment and frustration, which then cause them to either internalise (shut down and refuse to talk about it) or externalise (start becoming angry and aggressive).
Both of these communication styles are understandable ways of responding to something which is the source of such strong emotions, especially if they result in people leaving them alone afterwards and not raising the issue again. However, they also result in the issue not getting discussed. The person is often so overwhelmed with these emotions that they never have a conversation about their gambling, and nothing changes. As a loved one, you may not want to upset them further and may even be afraid about getting the same response next time.
– Counsellor Sam
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