How does problem gambling affect individuals and their families?

According to the federal government’s Problem Gambling resource, up to 500,000 Australians either are, or are at risk of becoming, problem gamblers.

In general, though, gambling can be a fun and entertaining activity – the same source notes it was enjoyed by 70 per cent of Australians in some form during 2009, as per their latest data.

If gambling starts to affect a person’s physical and mental health, or causes their family or loved ones to feel stressed, anxious, it can be classified as problem gambling.

However, the impact of problem gambling can be more pressing and needs to be managed with support services such as online counselling.

Here, we discuss some of the ripple effects of problem gambling on both the gambler and his or her family members and loved ones.



There is a reason why people refer to problem gambling as an addiction – it can be genuinely difficult to stop, similar in some ways to a chemical addiction to nicotine or another drug. This is because dopamine, a chemical in our brain that causes us to feel happy, tends to be released when gamblers win.

Problem gamblers lose approximately $21,000 annually – that’s a third of an average salary.

This chemical reaction in the brain is one of the factors that contributes to feelings of addiction, and WebMD explains there could be other brain-related factors at play too. Dr Franco Manes, a neurological researcher, notes in a WebMD interview that there is a possibility that impairments in the brain’s pre-frontal cortex make it more difficult for a problem gambler to reasonably consider future consequences. Impulse control and executive decision-making can also be affected.

These biological and neurological factors can make problem gambling very taxing on an individual, causing severe stress, anxiety or feelings of helplessness. Financial repercussions can also pile up, as Problem Gambling reports these individuals lose approximately $21,000 annually – that’s a third of an average salary nationwide.

A research paper by the Australian Gambling Research Centre (AGRC) complemented Online Counselling for problem gambling as an effective and productive modern-day solution, because of the anonymity, easy access to Internet and comfort of being able to type rather than talk.

It can be very difficult for a problem gambler to quit due to the addictive chemical factors of gambling.



Another study by the AGRC found that the three most common negative impacts of severe gambling on families were financial pressures, impaired relationships, lack of trust and other emotionally troubling effects.

A build-up of these unhealthy feelings can lead to breakdown of relationships. Indeed, Problem Gambling reported in a study on depression and relationship issues on problem gamblers, finding that they are six times more likely to be divorced, four times more likely to have alcohol problems and four times more likely to smoke daily. Another study by The Problem Gambling Treatment and Research Centre found children of problem gamblers are 10 times more likely to follow in the footsteps of their parents once they become adults.

The AGRC emphasises that these conditions can leave family members and loved ones with adverse effects on their own health, especially when their attempts to dissuade or change the problem gambling behaviour fail. Such situations could benefit more from professional help, so that all parties are being heard fairly and everyone’s views are respected and treated in a considerate manner.

You can call us on 1300 364 277 to book your Online Counselling session or you can also chat to us about our workshops, seminars and courses that might assist you to overcome your relationship issues with your partner/spouse, family or friends.

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