Gambling is a popular pastime for many people, but it can also be addictive. It’s important to recognise when gambling becomes a problem and take steps to address it. There are a number of support services available, and if you’re suffering from a gambling addiction it’s worth seeking treatment as soon as possible. In the US, there is a national help line and there are many clinics and rehab centers that specialise in treating gambling addictions. If you don’t have health insurance, there are still ways to get help for a gambling addiction, and it is now considered a mental illness, so most health plans cover some form of therapy.
There’s nothing wrong with gambling in moderation, but it is vital to gamble responsibly and never spend more than you can afford to lose. It is also important to set time and money limits, and stick to them. If you feel an urge to gamble, distract yourself with another activity. This can be anything from a phone call to a friend, taking a shower or having a cup of tea. Eventually, the urge will pass. Urges are a normal part of quitting gambling, and every time you overcome one you’re gaining control over your addiction.
It is also important to understand that gambling is a game of chance and the odds are stacked against you. Unless you’re an expert at a particular game, or you’ve won the lottery or a large sum of cash, it’s unlikely that you will ever become rich gambling.
Learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthy ways
Often, gambling is used as an unhealthy way to self-soothe, unwind and socialise. It’s important to find healthier and more effective ways to do this, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or trying new hobbies.
Learn to avoid triggers
It’s vital to understand your own personal gambling triggers and what causes you to gamble, as this will help you prevent them. Common triggers include feeling bored, feeling stressed or anxious, and being around places where you’ve gambled before. It’s also important to avoid relapsing, and this can be difficult as you may encounter gambling-related triggers when you’re out and about.
If you do relapse, it’s important to recognise this and understand that it’s not a failure. Just like smoking, a relapse is a normal part of the process of quitting gambling, and it’s an opportunity to learn more about your triggers. When you next experience a craving, make note of how it feels, what thoughts come into your head and how long it lasts. You can then use this information to help you manage your urges in the future. For example, you could try calling a friend when you feel a gambling urge coming on, or focusing on deep breathing. Our blog on Maintaining Change has more tips on how to deal with a gambling urge.