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Compulsive gambling is more than just a bad habit that’s hard to break - it’s a behavioral addiction that millions of people struggle with.

A gambling addiction progresses in a similar way to an alcohol or drug addiction: the gambler develops a tolerance to gambling, becomes dependent on it, and when they try to quit, they can experience serious withdrawal.

How Gambling Withdrawal Works

In order to understand gambling withdrawal, we must first try to understand the basics of gambling addiction. Gambling may start as a form of entertainment, or as an attempt to make money, without realizing that they are gradually becoming addicted to it. 

Enjoyable activities, which includes gambling, provide you with a rush of feel-good neurochemicals such as dopamine and endorphins. These feel-good chemicals encourage the individual to continue gambling, and gamble more often. As the gambler starts to build up a tolerance, they must take bigger risks in order to experience that feel-good rush. 

Many people are surprised at how difficult it can be to quit gambling, due to the intense withdrawal symptoms that occur. What happens during active addiction is the brain becomes overwhelmed by the overabundance of these feel-good neurochemicals and it reduces its natural production to compensate. 

man with head in one hand

Therefore, when the person stops gambling, there is nothing to trigger that dopamine release, since the brain is no longer releasing its usual natural dose of dopamine and endorphins. As a result of the lack of these natural neurochemicals, withdrawal occurs. Because of this, a person may believe that they need to gamble in order to feel normal again. 

Symptoms of Gambling Withdrawal

Symptoms of gambling withdrawal may include (but are not limited to):

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Craving gambling
  • Restlessness & insomnia
  • Muscle aches
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Irritability and mood swings

7 Tips for Easing Withdrawal Symptoms

What can be done about gambling withdrawal? Fortunately, there are some practical ways to ease these symptoms, but it will require work from the individual in order to see results. 

1. Eat a balanced diet - Eating well and staying hydrated can help reduce symptoms and mood swings. Limiting sugar and caffeine intake in particular can be helpful during this time. 

2. Exercise - Exercise has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety levels, and can help stabilize your mood. Since your body is deprived of its usual natural feel-good chemicals, exercise can be a great way to initiate a release of endorphins that create a positive feeling in the body and help reduce your perception of pain.

Being physically active is also helpful for combating mental fatigue or “brain fog,” and allows your brain to operate more clearly. 

3. Get Plenty of Sleep - Sleep can do wonders for reducing withdrawal symptoms, including regulating your mood and reducing feelings of restlessness. 

4. Identify & Manage Triggers - Knowing what triggers your urge to gamble can be highly beneficial. This may be boredom, anxiety, or financial stress. Consider attending counseling in order to learn how to cope with these underlying triggers. 

support group

5. Join a Support Group - Don’t attempt to recover on your own. There are other people who understand what you’re going through and can help guide you through this painful process. Find out if there are any Gamblers Anonymous meetings in your area, or meetings that you can attend virtually. 

Community in general is so important for coping with the pains of recovery. Spend time with friends and family whenever possible, and find ways to get involved in your community, whether through joining a sports team, or volunteering, etc. 

6. Meditation - Meditation and yoga are great strategies for calming the mind and body and can ease physical withdrawal symptoms. If you are new to meditation, start out with a guided program. 

7. Know that withdrawal is temporary. Take comfort in knowing that withdrawal symptoms are only temporary, and the brain will re-adjust itself with time. Remember that the longer you abstain from gambling, the more the withdrawal symptoms will ease. 

Treatment for Gambling Addiction

If you or a loved one is struggling with gambling addiction, you are not in this alone. We understand that it can feel overwhelming when trying to find the right people and the right kind of treatment to help with gambling addiction. 

We at Algamus are extremely prepared and well-equipped to treat any kind of gambling addiction, and have been treating individuals and seeing incredible results for the past 30 years.

Recovering from a gambling addiction is so much more than giving up gambling. We work with each of our clients to get to the root of their addiction to ensure a sustainable recovery. 

Our individualized, residential treatment program consists of a variety of treatment methods, including cognitive behavioral therapy, group therapy, yoga and meditation, ecotherapy, and more. We walk alongside our clients throughout the entire process, and maintain contact with them even after they have graduated from our facility.  

If you have questions about gambling, or would like to find out more about our gambling treatment program, speak to one of our gambling counselors, or leave a comment below. 

Topics: Gambling Addiction, withdrawal

Rick Benson

Written by Rick Benson

Rick founded Algamus Recovery Centers in 1992. A Cornell University graduate, Rick is an Internationally Certified Gambling Counselor (ICGC-II) and a Canadian Problem Gambling Counselor (CPGC). Algamus and Rick were featured on the very first episode of Intervention on the A&E channel.