Just like any addiction, a gambling addiction creeps up on a person gradually. What may start as harmless sports betting, may turn into an unhealthy obsession with gambling that leads to serious consequences.
With the rise of online gambling, problems with gambling addiction are even more hidden than ever before. If you have a gambling problem, those around you may not even realize it, since they don’t see you spending endless hours at the casino.
Do You Have a Gambling Problem?
Many people can enjoy gambling occasionally, without getting hooked on it. These people are referred to as “social gamblers.” They get excited if they win and disappointed if they lose, but for the most part, they’re just gambling for the fun of the game. Gambling does not disrupt any areas of their lives, they know their spending limits, and stick to them.
However, there are others who cannot gamble casually. These individuals are referred to as “compulsive gamblers” or “problem gamblers.” They find themselves gambling at any time, losing track of their obligations. In many cases, gambling spills over into other areas of their lives when they should be tending to responsibilities at work, school, or home.
Compulsive gamblers feel a thrill from placing high, risky bets. They typically cannot stick to a spending limit, even if they have put one in place. When they lose money from gambling, compulsive gamblers try to “chase their losses” by winning it back through gambling.
If you find that gambling is disrupting your life and causing you severe financial stress and mental illnesses such as depression, then now is the best time to hit pause and take a break.
Although it’s not easy to just quit altogether, here are some tips that can help you with your gambling problem.
5 Ways to Stop Gambling
1. Get to the Root of the Issue
Are you gambling out of boredom, stress, loneliness, or depression? Identify what your main triggers are, and seek professional help for whatever challenge you are facing that is causing you to gamble.
2. Distract Yourself with a New or Old Hobby
When you quit gambling, your brain will crave the adrenaline that it got when you would gamble. Try to learn something new every day, and challenge yourself.
You may get this “high” through sports and exercise, or through doing something mentally stimulating such as learning to play a musical instrument. You can also rekindle a hobby that you enjoyed before gambling started to take over.
This will help establish a familiar sense of routine, and as you put more focus into your hobbies, you may also find joy in something that is completely separate from gambling.
3. Learn Ways to Cope and Handle Triggers
Gambling is often used as an escape from troubling thoughts and emotions. Gambling addiction therapy offers valuable insights into how you developed this addiction and ways to stop gambling for good, especially when triggers are present.
In addition to therapy, you can also look into finding new ways to relax your mind and body such as meditation, taking a bath with lavender bath salts, watching your favorite movie, or drinking a warm cup of tea.
4. Surround Yourself with Positive Influences
Community is an extremely important part of recovery from any addiction. Surround yourself with people who you can trust, who you can learn from, and who will never encourage you to gamble. Consider joining a support group of people who are also recovering from compulsive gambling.
5. Write in a Journal
This method is about your experience and keeping your promise to yourself that you won’t gamble. Keeping track of your progress and seeing how far you’ve come is something that you can look back on when you feel the temptation to gamble.
Over time, this journal will show how much better your life is without gambling, and why you should never go back.
You can also include a list of things you are grateful for every day. Gratitude lists can change your perspective on life, and you will find that you are looking for the good things in each day, rather than the negative things.
Does Gambling Treatment Work?
There are a variety of treatments available for gamblers. One of the most common treatments is a gambling-specific support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.
This can be beneficial since you will be connecting with like-minded people who understand what you are going through. However, the important thing with support groups is to go continuously, even after you think you have conquered your gambling problem.
Gamblers Anonymous, when coupled with outpatient therapy, is about 5 times more successful. Having frequent one-on-one sessions with a counselor can help get to the root of your gambling problem, which can be a more effective way to quit permanently.
The most successful form of treatment is attending a residential treatment center for gambling. Getting away from your familiar environment, away from people or places that may remind you of gambling, can be highly beneficial.
At Algamus, we offer residents a 30+ day stay at our mountain lodge in Prescott, Arizona. Here, you will be in community with fellow gamblers, have access to counselors, and get to try out forms of therapy you may have never tried, including yoga and meditation. Attending a gambling-specific treatment center can get you permanent results in a timely manner.
If you feel that it’s likely that you or a loved one has a gambling problem that needs to be addressed, reach out to us and we can help determine a treatment plan that is best suited for you.