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Sugarol Ba Siya? How To Help A Compulsive Gambler
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  • From distance learning, work-from-home, to virtual parties, the pandemic indeed kept the family indoors adapting to a new lifestyle and causing a surge on internet use for work, study and entertainment.

    Just when we thought that home is the safest place to be, family members find themselves having to deal with anxiety, isolation, and even domestic violence.

    Despite the closure of entertainment centers and casinos, the pandemic also caused an increase in online gambling. Gambling is brought closer to home via online betting games and apps conveniently accessible through mobile phones. It promises instant 'yaman', that seems to address the need for income and entertainment for those greatly affected by the pandemic.

    Is gambling really bad?

    We have governing laws on gambling and for as long as the establishment or operator complies, it makes gaming legal.

    It's the player's lack of control that leads to consequences which can badly affect their finances, relationships, and mental health.

    A social gambler is the type who plays occasionally and is not compelled to gamble.

    Problem or compulsive  gamblers possess an uncontrollable urge to gamble and display a regressive change in personality that can become worse when untreated or ignored.

    How to identify a compulsive gambler.

    Unlike social gamblers, compulsive gamblers consistently play and exceed a budget they allotted for the game. The addiction clouds their judgment as they continue to gamble despite losing big sums of money, leading them to lie about the extent of their addiction.

    They lose focus on their main responsibilities such as their job and family. Their habit causes heavy financial loses making them resort to borrowing money, getting loans or making bad decisions just to fund their gambling.

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    Why is gambling addictive? The excitement brought by betting, anticipation and winning releases dopamine, the same chemical produced by the brain when we are happy. Illegal drugs can also create the same chemical reaction in the brain. In gambling, dopamine is triggered by the player's behavior and thus boosts the addiction.

    How can families of a compulsive gambler help?

    While the Player Exclusion Program of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) enables anyone to ban a family member who is a compulsive gambler from all PAGCOR premises nationwide, the program does not cover online gambling sites like e-sabong which can only show the player infographics as a reminder on responsible gaming.

    So, how can you protect your family member from gambling addiction online? Bridges of Hope, a private rehabilitation center, shares in their website effective ways in dealing with an online gambling addict.

    1. Recognize that the problem is the addiction, not the person.

    Know that it's an impulse control disorder.

    2. Calmly talk to the family member.

    Tell him or her about your observation, suspicion and how it’s affecting your family without labeling or attacking the person saying that he or she is a 'sugarol'. An attack will automatically make him or her defensive. Talk about his actions instead of his character.

    3. Communicate that this is out of your control and help from a professional is needed.

    A compulsive gambler needs to recognize that there is a problem first before he or she agrees to a solution. You cannot help someone who doesn't agree that he or she needs help. The same family member needs to understand that seeking help is not a sign of weakness. Once the gambler agrees to seek professional help, do not expect the person to change overnight as giving up an addiction is a process.

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    4. Talk to your children about the family member's gambling habits.

    This is a good opportunity to teach the kids how gambling can lead to addiction, and how family members can help in healing and recovery. Make sure, however, that these conversations are devoid of blame or hate.

    5. Set boundaries about money matters and make them accountable for the loss.

    Covering up or paying for a gambler's incurred debt reinforces the bad behavior. Instead, help the person find ways to legally earn the money that will help him or her cover his debts.

    6. Seek a support system.

    The compulsive gambler needs trusted family members that will help him stay away from gambling during the process of recovery. This is the hardest part of healing.

    An addict or former addict can have a relapse anytime which is why it is vital to have a support system, along with professional help. Experts can point out practical things to do when withdrawal symptoms such as irritability, agitation, insomnia and depression surface.

    It might also help to join communities like Gam-Anon global community, which is composed of family and friends of compulsive gamblers. The community sees compulsive gambling as a family disease, and it also sees family as crucial in healing and recovery. 

    Do you have a compulsive gambler in the family? Here are helpful institutions you can get in touch with:

    Gamblers Anonymous Philippines

    0976-038-4333

    0917-306-2232

    Bridges of Hope

    0917-509-8826

    (02) 7622 0193

    Life Change Recovery Center

    0917-520-3509

    0922-877-5972

    Gam-Anon

    Other forms of addiction can also exist in the family such as internet gaming, online trading, alcoholism and compulsive buying or online shopping. Read more about overcoming debts and what the Philippine law says about it here.

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