Understanding Codependency and How Loved Ones May Enable the Problem Gambler
When we think of codependency, many relate it to an addiction like drugs and alcohol. Problem gambling is another addiction that can lead to codependency, and a family may find themselves behaving in ways to support the gambler and pushing their own wants and needs aside. It is important to know that the 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine in Florida is there not only for the problem gambler, but also for loved ones.
A key difference from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is that gambling disorder is a hidden addiction. The household knows if someone comes home high or drunk by sight and smell. With compulsive gambling, these physical signs are not present, so not only are any associated mood changes misunderstood – the addiction may have progressed to damaging levels by the time anyone knows there is a problem. Part of co-dependency and enabling is when a spouse, parent, child, or friend may find himself or herself keeping the secret as well, hoping not to anger the gambler and start a fight. They may cover for the time lost or any financial problems that arise to keep the family together.
Codependency, also known as relationship addiction, takes place when one person believes it’s their job to “save” another person by attending to all their needs. A codependent person builds their identity around this purpose and takes on a self-sacrificial role in the relationship. Enmeshment is the inappropriate closeness of family members. In an enmeshed and over-involved relationship, individuals get lost in the relationship. There is a clear lack of boundaries, thus each individual has difficulty developing a clear sense of self.
Common signs of co-dependency include:
- A deep-seated need for approval from others
- Self-worth that depends on what others think about you
- A habit of taking on more work emotionally and physically than you can realistically handle, in an effort to earn praise or lighten a loved one’s burden
- Avoiding conflict
- A tendency to apologize or take blame in order to keep the peace and minimize or ignore your own desires
- Overwhelming fear of rejection or abandonment
You are Not Alone
You are not alone in your feelings and actions and since pathological lying can be a side effect of the addiction, trust is broken, and it may seem impossible to make any changes. Rebuilding trust may take months or years, or it may never happen. Creating a healthy emotional distance from a troubled loved one is necessary and beneficial for the codependent partner. It is a way to expose the compulsive gambler to the negative consequences of their behaviors. Before any change can happen in the relationship, the codependent person needs to change their patterns and behaviors. Here’s how to start healthy dependence for yourself:
- Set and maintain healthy boundaries
- Validate and protect yourself emotionally and financially
- Give thought to the fact that codependency may be rooted in childhood relationships with parents or other caregivers
- Contact the 888-ADMIT-IT HelpLine to get connected to free resources like the FCCG’s A Chance for Change Recovery Workbooks series for loved ones, self-help support groups specifically for loved ones of problem gamblers, and many more
Can You Walk Away?
Have a loved one who can’t walk away from gambling? Don’t know how to break the cycle of codependency? If you are a family member looking for answers and support, call or text the FCCG’s 24/7, Confidential, and Multilingual 888-ADMIT-IT Problem Gambling HelpLine today to take the first step on the path to recovery.
 The 5 Core Issues of Codependency. PRIORY, 2023.
 Raypole, Crystal. What Are the Signs of Codependency? PsychCentral, June 10, 2021.