Also known as compulsive and pathological gambling, gambling addiction can take over a family, and the effects of gambling on children can be severe. As with other alcohol or drug addictions, gambling offers the individual a temporary yet powerful and addictive rush of euphoria. Over time, the thrill of a win (or possible win) can become more appealing than spending time with family or paying the bills. Thus, these children of gambling addicts – or “casino kids” – may eventually live in a world where they lack the attention, emotional validation, stability, and support of a parent.
Understanding What Gambling Addiction Is
Compulsive gambling or gambling addiction is a type of behavioral addiction in which the person struggles with an uncontrollable urge to keep gambling despite the negative impact it has on their life. As with drug or chemical dependency, compulsive gamblers may be unable to control their gambling, experience mood swings, become irritable when they aren’t gambling, and use gambling as an escape from certain stressors.
Additionally, as is common when someone abuses opioids or cocaine, gambling can stimulate the brain’s reward system, leading to the release of chemicals that play a role in motivation and reward, such as serotonin and dopamine. This thrill or surge of euphoria that the individual experiences when they gamble can reinforce the behavior further, leading to more and more gambling.
Common gambling addiction signs include continually chasing bets that lead to losses, depleting their bank accounts, hiding their behavior from loved ones, stealing money from loved ones to gamble, and accumulating debt. They might even resort to fraud to support their addiction, which increases their risk of legal problems.
Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can destroy a person’s health and life. Due to the lying, stealing, cheating, and financial distress that often comes with gambling, as well as the impact on the person’s character, gambling can impact everyone in the person’s family.
How Gambling Addiction Affects Children
Cycles of family violence may occur with gambling addiction. A study conducted by the University of Nebraska Medical Center found that gambling addiction is as high of a risk factor for domestic violence as alcohol abuse.
The study also found that feelings like frustration, desperation, hopelessness, and anger are common among people with gambling addictions and can contribute to family tension, stress, and overall dysfunction. Considering this, it’s no surprise that emotional abuse is also common among families plagued by gambling addiction.
A gambling addict’s behavior is often unpredictable, often leading to disrupted family routines, which can strip a child of a sense of stability and security. Many children of gambling addicts report feeling profound loss and helplessness comparable to the grief felt from the loss of a loved one.
Furthermore, as we previously mentioned, compulsive gamblers may deplete their family’s finances or berate their family members for not “supporting” or “understanding” their gambling. As you can imagine, this rollercoaster of behavior and emotions can have a major impact on the children in the situation.
With this in mind, below are three major ways that gambling affects children:
Lack of Emotional Validation
It’s common for children of gambling addicts to feel as if their feelings and experiences are not validated or confirmed. They might therefore find it hard to identify or trust their thoughts, emotions, and judgment.
These children might also feel confused about their perceptions of the world. Without immediate help or care early on, they might eventually find it difficult to maintain romantic and platonic relationships as teens and then as adults.
Additionally, these children may find it hard to judge, evaluate, and cope with certain situations. This lack of confidence in themselves may lead to insecurity and fearfulness.
Lack of Environmental Stability
Stable family routines are important for child development and behavior. Children thrive off of stable and consistent routines in the home.
However, due to the emotional turmoil and other problems that come with a parent’s gambling addiction, instability in a home impacted by compulsive gambling is inevitable. A lack of environmental stability can make it difficult for children to understand the value of work and persistence and make it difficult for them to develop frustration tolerance.
Problem-solving skills, emotional stability, and healthy relationships with other family members may also suffer or become nonexistent in homes affected by gambling. The effects of gambling on children may also include financial swings, homelessness, lack of stability, frequent moving from home to home, and more.
Lack of Emotional Predictability
Children of gambling addicts may also struggle heavily with emotional instability. Ideally, parents should respond to a child with approval and love, meeting their needs with neither excessive nor insufficient gratification.
However, a parent addicted to gambling and their spouse may swing on a pendulum, ranging from being excessively indulgent and stimulating to physically absent and emotionally ungiving. Gambling addicts’ children are often raised with lies and deceit as parents may attempt to cover up their behavior or even take advantage of certain family situations to keep gambling.
Parents with gambling addictions may also manipulate their children to bail them out of jail or give them money by showing them affection. They may also attempt to cover up their harmful behavior by “buying” their children’s affection.
To cope, the child may identify with their parent’s exciting and glamorous aspects or become depressed or anxious. As a result, “casino kids” might butt heads with the other trustworthy and responsible parent mainly because they’re sure that the parent will remain responsible.
Other emotional effects of gambling on children include:
- Lack of trust for self or others
- Act out or keep angry feelings bottled up
- Struggle with tolerating frustration
- Need immediate gratification
- Struggle with problems at school, work, and with friends
- Physical ailments
- Is either overly responsible/serious or extremely irresponsible
- Difficulty achieving autonomy and independence
- Shame, guilt, and self-blame
- Is either a loner or hates being alone
- Struggles with sleeping and/or eating disorders
- Become overcautious or take unnecessary risks
- Overvaluing money/materials things
- Blaming the non-gambling parent
- Disregarding the law
The child of a gambling addict has been impacted just as severely as the individual. As with any type of addiction, compulsive gambling can strip a person’s life from health, wealth, and joy.
Help for Gambling Addiction
Gambling addiction often co-occurs with other disorders, such as substance use and mental health disorders, and therefore requires special care and support. For those who are struggling with compulsive gambling, our luxury Palm Beach rehab offers gambling addiction treatment, among various other services, to help clients overcome their symptoms and learn how to stay abstinent.
Through the use of evidence-based therapy programs, our high-end rehab helps clients understand the source of their conditions and opens their eyes to the impact it’s had on them and their loved ones. In addition to personal care, our facility also offers family therapy to help clients make amends with their spouses and children.
For more information about our mental health care or addiction treatment in Palm Beach, call Seaside Palm Beach today at 561-677-9374.