Many people can enjoy gambling without it becoming a problem, but over time, some people develop a gambling addiction that can ruin their lives. Compulsive gambling is a progressive illness, so even if you’ve gambled before and been okay, a problem could develop later on. The urge to gamble can be overwhelming, leading someone to lie, steal, blow through their savings and miss out on the rest of their lives. Several signs indicate when normal enjoyment of gambling transitions into a problem. The earlier the process is identified, the better the chances for a successful recovery. Although compulsive gambling is hard to overcome, many people are able to manage their illness with professional help.

Adolescents and teens are at risk for developing a gambling problem. Compulsive gambling generally starts when someone is in their late teens. Occasionally, people even become addicted the first time they gamble. Other times, the problem starts in the teen years and progresses as people’s lives become more stressful. Teens can gamble casually, but times of stress or depression might trigger overwhelming gambling urges. In the 1968 film “Funny Girl,” Barbra Streisand’s character falls in love with Nick Arnstein, a dashing con artist whose reckless gambling causes them to lose their mansion, savings, and finally, their marriage.

Gambling disorder can lead to problems with finances, relationships and work, and other potential legal issues. People with gambling disorder often hide their behavior. They may lie to family members and others to cover up their behavior and may turn to others for help with financial problems. Some gamblers are seeking excitement or action in gambling, others are looking more for escape or numbing.

Personal Problems

According to the Royal College of Psychiatrists, problem gamblers are more likely than others to suffer from low self-esteem, develop stress-related disorders, to become anxious, have poor sleep and appetite, to develop a substance misuse problem and to suffer from depression. Gambling can affect relationships, physical and mental health, work performance and social life. Gambling addiction is harmful to psychological and physical health. People who live with this addiction may experience depression, migraine, distress, intestinal disorders, and other anxiety-related problems. As with other addictions, the consequences of gambling addiction can lead to feelings of despondency and helplessness.

Familial Problems

Approximately 20% of people accessing Australian gambling support services are the family members of people with gambling addiction or problems. Gambling problems can have a significant impact on families. Although most of the available research involves intimate partners, other family members such as children, parents, grandparents and siblings are also affected. Common family impacts include financial hardship, impaired family relationships, diminished emotional and physical health, family conflict, mistrust, family neglect, communication breakdown and confusion about family roles and responsibilities. There is also consistent evidence that gambling problems are associated with family violence and that they are transmitted from one generation to the next.

The most common responses from family were a loss of trust in the gambler (63%), anger towards the gambler (61%), depression or sadness (59%), anxiety (58%), distress due to gambling-related absences (56%), reduced quality of time spent with the gambler (52%), and a breakdown in communication (52%).

Financial Problems

Financial losses are the most immediate cost to the gambler and people who are facing gambling addiction or disorder. As access to money becomes more limited, gamblers often involves in crime in order to pay debts, appease bookies, maintain appearance, and garner more money to gamble. Fisher reported that 46% of adolescent’s surveyed stole from their family, 12% stole from others, 31% sold their possessions, and 39% gambled with their travel money.


Remind yourself

1. Understand the problem

You can’t fix something that you don’t understand. To eliminate gambling from your life, you must learn about the issue and admit you have a gambling problem.

The American Psychiatric Association identifies gambling as a mental health disorder similar to addictions triggered by alcohol and drugs. You might have a gambling disorder if you have:

  • The powerful need to gamble with larger amounts of money
  • Feelings of restlessness or irritability when not gambling
  • Made repeated and unsuccessful attempts to quit gambling
  • Found yourself completely preoccupied with gambling
  • Noticed you gamble to manage stress
  • Continued gamble to “get even”
  • Lied to friends, coworkers and loved ones about gambling
  • Lost relationships or created conflict about gambling
  • Needed financial support

Be honest with yourself when you look over the symptoms of gambling disorder, or even better, ask a loved one about their opinion of your gambling for a clearer understanding. Stop denying and start seeing the negative effect gambling has on your life.

2. Admit you have a problem

As with all addictions, one of the first steps on the road to recovery is admitting there’s something wrong in the first place. The percentage of gambling addicts who seek out treatment is small (some estimates are as low as 3%), and Berlin says most addicts don’t get help until very late in the cycle. “In the beginning, they may be in denial,” she says, “but when it gets to a point where it’s clearly a problem, they stop trying to deny it.”

When they do seek help, many call 24-hour gambling hotlines, which are answered by trained mental health professionals. The NCPG hotline received 317,000 calls last year, says Whyte, and has received a 10% increase in calls each year for the past decade.

3. Identify your triggers

Your clean time is precious. See any urge to gambling as a temporary menace and be prepared for them to emerge before special occasions such as birthdays, wedding anniversaries or exam time.

4. Gambling is to lose

It is important to remind yourself that in the absence of discipline you will almost certainly lose your money, regardless of your betting strategy. This is the fundamental fact of problem gambling. Your gambling urges might appear as seductive temptations when you are undergoing financial worries, especially as most forms of gambling offer the potential of immediate high reward. Reminding yourself that you can’t stop once you start can help you to deal with any urges to gamble.

Gambling is to lose

5. Think about the consequences

Shame and guilt are strong feelings for anyone in recovery from addiction. Shame and guilt can be dangerous because too much of them can encourage people to relapse, but some levels of shame and guilt can motivate you to stay in recovery.

Think about the consequences of your past gambling to avoid gambling in the future. Think about:

  • The emotional pain you caused your loved ones
  • The financial hardships you put your family in
  • Any lies you told to disguise your addiction from others

Try not to dwell on past behavior, and only use it for motivation to avoid gambling in the future. Too much shame or guilt can be counterproductive.

Change your habits

6. Avoid Boredom

Ex-gamblers, so used to the highs and lows of active addiction, typically struggle with periods of boredom in their lives. Try to plan your days so that you aren’t tempted to fill empty space by gambling. Research seems to back this up when findings showed that problem gamblers have a low threshold for boredom. When faced with an uninspiring task they will invariably avoid it or not complete it.

7. Live your life

This means trying to forget about what happened yesterday, including your gambling losses. A desire to get even with the bookmakers or casinos will restrict your ability to focus on your recovery issues. Taking your life one day at a time also means not worrying about what tomorrow might hold for you in your life. Keep the focus on what you can do today that will help your ongoing recovery from addiction.

8. Gratitude list

Staying aware of how better your life is without gambling is vital in any relapse prevention strategy. If this conforms to any spiritual practice then all the better. When we have a grateful attitude, we are less likely to be searching for excitement. Try it, it really works.

Addictions can be seen as a failure to bond. A problem gambler has bonded with the activity of gambling because they couldn’t bond as fully with anything else. It might follow, therefore, that the opposite of addiction is not clean time per se, but the human connection.

Counselling and talking therapy can help you to heal any old emotional wounds that are getting in your way. The process of building trust and rapport with a therapist can help to identify specific personal vulnerabilities to relapse, hidden triggers and to devise a plan for the successful maintenance of your recovery.

9. Do something different

Your brain got used to working in a certain way when gambling, but it still needs to be constantly stimulated now that you have stopped. So try to set yourself new goals and tasks each day. When you are focused on problem-solving, you will be better able to cope with gambling urges when they come.

10. Opt an old hobby

Invariably, gamblers will lose interest in hobbies as they become more and more addicted to their gambling. After you have stopped, it is important to rekindle old hobbies. This will not only boost your self-esteem but will also provide a regular reminder of your new way of life. Like most behavioural addictions, it is important to find a more healthy activity to replace negative addiction. This will keep you focused on the benefits of your new way of life rather than on what you are missing out on.

11. Cope with stress

Stress is the barometer of how we manage our emotions and can be a major contributing factor in relapse from gambling recovery. It is vital to find new, healthy ways to cope with stress, whether that is physical exercise, meditation, hypnotherapy or talking to a trusted friend. The risks are that the temptation to gamble will become stronger and stronger as you become more stressed.  

12. Avoid temptation

Gambling is a temptation, but seeing gambling as an addiction is a significant step because it permits you to use skills from addiction recovery and relapse prevention. For someone in recovery, avoiding people, places and activities linked to gambling can help them avoid a setback. By avoiding these triggers, you can avoid the thoughts and feelings that encourage gambling.

So, if driving by a casino after work sparks thoughts of gambling, take an alternative way home. If watching sports makes you want to bet on it, consider watching something else. Cut up your credit cards and let your spouse handle the checkbook.

It may seem like an inconvenience, but just as a person with a drinking problem should not go into a bar, you have to identify and avoid your triggers. Work with a loved one on your list of triggers and find ways to avoid the temptations to reduce the risk of gambling.

13. Postpone gambling

With addictions, there are cravings. Cravings are strong urges to complete the desired behavior. As a gambler, you could have cravings to call your bookie, go to the casino, cash your paycheck or other behaviors linked to gambling.

Cravings are intense, and while you are in the middle of one, it feels like it could last forever. It will not, though. All cravings have a beginning, middle and end. So as long as you can postpone your gambling, you can maintain recovery.

An excellent way to approach this issue is by paying attention to your cravings, what they feel like, what you think about during the craving and how long it tends to last. By studying the craving, you begin to take away its control over you.

Once you build an understanding of the situation, you can list a set of thoughts or actions to distract from the gambling. Perhaps, deep breathing or calling a friend when a craving hits will be the best ways to postpone gambling.

Diverting Mindset

14. Visualize your betting firm with a negative slogan

Associate your betting platform with a negative connotation and imagine a nasty image when you think of the operator’s logo. This way you can seek to embed the negative bias of gambling in your sub-conscious. It will also help you to remember exactly how low and desperate you felt when you stopped.

15. Be especially vigilant leading up to special events

Research has indicated that gamblers tend to have difficulties with the management of impulse control and with delaying gratification. Recognize the need to bolster your resolve when special events approach on the calendar. If you had been a sports gambler, for example, then special events such as football World Cups and European Championships, the Wimbledon tennis tournament, the Cheltenham Festival, Royal Ascot or the Ryder Cup can be particularly challenging. Perhaps you need to avoid the increased hype within the media surrounding these events, especially when bookmaking firms offer special offers.

16. Join a Support Group

Now that you have recognized the problem, you can seek assistance from a support group. Support groups are organizations maintained by people with similar experiences and pasts. Though support groups lack professional interventions, they are free to try out in person or in online chat rooms.

Gamblers Anonymous is one support group specifically built around the needs of people with gambling problems. The group is based around the familiar 12-step approach used by other support groups like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous.

For more information on support groups for gamblers, you can contact the gambling hotline at the National Council on Problem Gambling. They offer voice and text support for people with gambling issues and can point you toward helpful group options to manage the trials of gambling addiction.

Join support group

17. Find Alternatives to Gambling

Avoiding triggers and distracting during cravings are great ways to deal with gambling, but to improve your state, you’ll need to find healthy alternatives to gambling. By replacing gambling behaviors with positive ones, you shift the focus away from the bad and towards the good.

Some gambling alternatives include:

  • Physical activity (e.g., going for walks, weightlifting, team sports or yoga)
  • Meditation
  • Spending more time with friends and family who do not gamble
  • Volunteering at a hospital or animal shelter
  • Exploring new hobbies
  • Traveling

Just think of the fun, beneficial alternatives you can explore with the extra money you have from not gambling.

18. Seek Professional Help

If your gambling is severe, consider seeking professional help as soon as possible. Professional treatment from a mental health or addiction specialist could be the difference between a life of financial uncertainty versus living in financial stability.

Professional treatment methods can teach you ways to stay away from gambling as well as refining the skills you are already employing. With professional counselors and therapists widely available, the only thing holding you back is your reluctance. Even better, you can seek professional help while participating in a support group.

If your gambling addiction co-occurs alongside a substance use disorder, contact the experts at The Recovery Village. One telephone call can change your life for the better. Don’t hesitate, call today for a confidential, personal assessment with one of our representatives.

Steps to Follow

  • Step 1: Admit that Gambling is an Issue

You must first recognize that gambling is an issue in your life before you can begin to overcome it. This means acknowledging that your gambling behaviors are negatively impacting you, whether financially, with your relationships, at your job, or all of the above.

  • Step 2: Have Faith that You Can Kick It

Even if it feels like your gambling addiction is too big to handle, it’s important to remember that others have managed to kick it—and you can too. It isn’t necessarily going to be easy, but it is possible as long as you continue to work toward that goal.

  • Step 3: Determine Why You Gamble

To overcome your gambling addiction, you need to know what makes you gamble to begin with. Is it that you like the feeling you get when you gamble? Do you use it as an escape from problems in other areas of your life? What is it about gambling that makes you go back for more? If you’re unsure, a professional can help you uncover why gambling is so appealing to you, making it easier to continue with the healing process.

  • Step 4: Find Other Ways to Deal with Gambling Triggers

If you discover that anxiety is a trigger for your gambling, then it’s imperative to find other, healthier ways to deal with that emotion, such as exercising, doing breathing exercises, or seeing a therapist. The same is true if you gamble to deal with stress, to avoid going home to an unhappy relationship, or whatever is driving you back for more. Identify the options that are better for you when it comes to dealing with that emotion and keep them handy for times when you get the urge to gamble instead.

  • Step 5: Set Up a Support System

If you’ve not been honest about your gambling behaviors, this may be a difficult step to take, admitting to loved ones that you have a problem with gambling. But once you do, you’ll likely realize that your family and friends are behind you. They’re there to support you because they love you and only want the best for you. This gives you the support you need when you’re struggling with making positive changes.

Suggestive treatments

19. Consider medication

Like a drug addict who has become desensitized to small amounts of the drug, people who are prone to gambling addiction often have trouble feeling the same “high” that other people get when anticipating winning money, says Berlin. Rather than seeking out a high, she says, problem gamblers “need more just to get the normal high as someone who’s not a pathological gambler.”

To correct for this imbalance of dopamine, psychiatrists will often prescribe SSRIs, an antidepressant that affects the serotonin system. Other drugs that are also prescribed are lithium, often used in cases where the person also has bipolar disorder, and opiate antagonists like nalmefene, which reduces the positive feelings associated with winning.

20. Implement regulatory mechanisms

Some gamblers who don’t currently have a problem but worry about themselves in the future may try to put limits on how often they gamble and the amount of money they gamble with. This can include only bringing cash to a casino or gambling with designated money and not dipping into funds for other specified expenses (e.g., rent, mortgage, food).

Gamblers on the opposite end of the spectrum, who are clearly identified as pathological gamblers and are either not in treatment or are suffering from relapse, sometimes designate a trusted advisor to control their finances so that they’re literally prevented from accessing cash for gambling. 

21. Therapy

This could be behavior therapy or cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT). Behavior therapy helps an individual reduce the urge to gamble by systematically exposing them to the behaviour. CBT helps change the way in which the individual feels and thinks about gambling.

Therapy CBT

Summary shares that, in the U.S. alone, more than 1.2 million people struggle with the frequent and sometimes-overwhelming urge to gamble. To put that into perspective, this amount is comparable to the number of people addicted to cocaine or the number of individuals who abuse drugs categorized as amphetamines.

Because this amount represents just 2-3 percent of the population at large, gambling addiction isn’t discussed as feverishly as some other addictions. This creates a problem for those who suffer from this particular affliction and who are looking for help, making it feel as if relief or recovery is harder to find. Approximately 1 percent of the adult population in the United States has a severe gambling problem. The most recent research estimates that 6 to 9 percent of young people and young adults experience problems related to gambling, a higher rate than among adults.

If you cannot stop and get rid of from gambling addiction, seek for professional help. Psychological help is also available online and therapies or treatments are provided concerning the idea of privacy and confidentiality.

Moving forward with Psychotherapy

Fortunately, offers a global ePsychotherapy platform that allows clients to book an online anonymous private appointment with a broad skill range of psychotherapists at an affordable cost and desired schedule.

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Alternatively, if you need to seek psychotherapy, be sure to check out Ahealo is an online psychotherapy platform with a diverse range of psychotherapists for many different fields of mental challenges. Ahealo provides ePsychotherapy at an affordable price, confidential, convenient (through a web page 1-1 private video call), and at your comfortable schedule. 

Stay well.