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Apr 8, 2016
by: Sarah Pierce
Devastating Impact of Disordered Gambling
One in five people in the United States will experience a mental illness in any given year. For families of people with mental illness, the recovery process can be painful. The difference between typical changes in mood and behavior compared to the early signs of an illness are difficult to discern, and treatment services can be intimidating and difficult to navigate. At Recovery Resources, I have had the privilege of working in partnership with families of people with disordered gambling. While I have attended trainings on the topic of disordered gambling, nothing has painted a more clear and heartbreaking picture of this illness than working in partnership with families. These are the top three points I have learned from families.
 
Gambling, compared to other addictions, has a unique financial impact. Disordered gamblers are addicted to the act of gambling, and therefore will engage in extreme measures to obtain the financial means to continue gambling. This behavior leaves families in difficult situations, such as parents wondering if they should file a police report against their own child, which could lead to a felony conviction.
 
Problem gambling impacts the whole family system. Disordered gamblers often engage in deceitful behavior. This not only causes conflict between the gambler and their families, but also between all members of the family. Each person might hold different beliefs on the gamblers illness, and how best to respond. As a person becomes more unwell and circumstances escalate, it can cause extreme distress between spouses, siblings and dear friends.
 
Disordered gambling can be incredibly disabling, even fatal. Mental illnesses are consistently ranked by health organizations as the most disabling health problems. This holds true for addiction, including disordered gambling. Preoccupation with gambling can overtake a person’s life, impacting their relationships, work and ability to live independently. This is not a result of character – but the result of a progressing illness. The culminations of these factors can lead to a sense of hopelessness, and even suicide. While the impact of the disorder can be severe, because of shame, guilt and stigma, gamblers and their families often do not receive support from the community during this time of need. Luckily there are support groups such as GA & GAM ANON to provide reassurance, information and support.
 
While the impact of disordered gambling to families in Northeast Ohio weighs heavy on my heart, I am energized by the diverse group of community members that have come together through the Cuyahoga Problem Gambling Coalition (CPGC) to address this issue. For more information on meeting dates, events or becoming a member of CPGC please contact Ashley Hartman ahartman@recres.org or Michael Buzzelli mbuzzelli@recres.org.
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