Adult son with Aspergers gambling

My 24 year old son has Aspergers, although not diagnosed as there is no funding in Ayrshire for adults to be diagnosed, we have done all the online tests and he scores high on them all. 

We have now found out he has a gambling addiction and is thousands of pounds in debt.  I am worried sick and don't know how to deal with it. We have made him go to gamblers annonymous and also took bank cards off him, informed gambling sites/payday loans of his addiction.  What else can we do? 

  • Sorry about the emojis, don't know how that happened. 

  • It might be worth contacting the helpline for Scottish Autism if you have not already done so:

    Getting an autism diagnosis might well be helpful in terms of identity and accessing services and support - how does your son feel about this? Is it something he would feel comfortable about?

    As well as engaging in interventions for gambling addiction it might be helpful for your son to know if he is autistic. This may affect his decision making quite a bit.

    The health service guidelines for Scotland seem to suggest that assessment should be offered if autism is indicated by screening tests.

    In England to get an NHS assessment you have to show that autism causes significant problems in daily life. It is important to give examples of this when asking for a referral.

    Here are short and long versions of the Scottish health service guidelines for autism:

    Short reference guideline
    Full guideline

    There is quite a bit of useful information in these documents. I am sure Scottish Autism will be able to provide helpful advice too.

    GPs are often not familiar with the autism assessment and referral guidelines so it is sometimes helpful to share relevant sections with them. It also helps to have a print out of the autism screening test results and a summary of problems in everyday life that seem to be consistent with autism.

    All the very best to both of you. Do encourage your son to join this forum - he will find lots of support and encouragement here.

  • Hi Mum71, I'm an adult in his 50s who is finally (as far as I know) free of a gambling addiction that lasted 5 years. Some things I can offer, which hopefully will help if your son is in the same zone that I was.

    1. In my case, I was using gambling to zone out & provide a quiet mental space that I craved, and to turn off the constant thoughts and ponderings that Aspergers sends my way, and as a respite from the constant incoming excitements of family life. So, anything that can be done to provide quietness, and mental focus and "flow", might help to displace the habit.

    2. It was impossible for me to put into action the negative instruction "STOP gambling", but it was possible to put effort into "DO something else". It wasn't at all easy though, because the drive to DO something else has to come from the heart.

    3. There may be more or less of demand avoidance - for me I was resistant to instructions from others, and especially anything that I perceived as judgemental (e.g. "you must cut up your cards you dirty gambling addict").

    4. Part of what was driving my gambling (maybe quite a lot of it) was a feeling of not being listened to, of not being heard. I found the responsibility to look after everyone (I was the highest earner by far in my extended family) without feeling appreciated or having my opinions and preferences considered (e.g my preference to simply stay at home and enjoy the peace and quiet away from people) very hard to bear. So I used gambling as a way of "throwing my teddies out' and perhaps subconsciously "If you're not going to take me seriously I'm going to get rid of all of the money and then you can all look after me for a change".

    5. I knew that gambling was a logically stupid thing to do, 100%. This didn't stop me - it's about feelings, not logic.

    6. Realising that I'm autistic helped a lot, because it helped me give myself permission to say no to the demands I mention above. My user name hints at one - I got a ridiculous amount of stress over the decades from having to send Christmas cards that I don't want to. No more, and that's reduced my stress enormously.

    7. It also helped that the house is quieter now the kids have left, and through coupled therapy I finally felt heard by my wife and therapist about what I want and don't want out of life. For example, I don't want to keep running the treadmill faster and faster and have more and more expensive holidays - in fact I don't want the stress of holidays at all.

    8. I stopped gambling every day around the time I realised I was autistic. It didn't go away instantly though - stress would still build, and I'd binge once every few months. But now it's been 5 months and I no longer think about it.

    9. There is no "silver bullet" in terms of "blocks"; *everything* can be worked around. Self exclude from one operator, there's always another (I opened accounts with, and then self excluded from, about 50 online operators). Put blocking software on your PC, there's always your phone. One thing I *did* personally find useful though, which I didn't come across until very late in the journey, is this; report your bank cards lost. When the new ones arrive, get a trusted person to scratch off the security code on the back (*very* thoroughly, before you get a chance to even glance at it!) as this means you can use the cards in shops but not online. If the trusted person notes down the number, you can get them to type it in to a website if you do need to buy anything online.

    10. Having said that, there is now GamStop which is intended to be a one-for-all self exclusion from *every* online operator. It's not watertight, but for me it was a great declaration of intent. There are similar schemes for bricks-and-mortar places.

    11. Gamblers Anonymous; see my other post about Heros and Higher powers!. I went to *one* meeting to demonstrate that I was serious about stopping, but it was a sensory and social hell for my autism. I hated every one of the 30 minutes that I made myself stay for, and left before the bulk of the meeting. But it was so horrible, it helped me stop! There's no way I'm putting myself in a position to need to go back there!

    So - I hope that helps, and gives you some pointers on how to reach out gently to your son. Good luck!.