Self Care for Problem Gamblers

Apr 26, 2023

Man actualizing self care and manifesting his recovery journey from problem gambling and gambling addiction

How Self Care and Caring for your Mental Health Can Aid Problem Gamblers in their Recovery Journey

Gambling Addiction (also known as Problem Gambling) often leads to strained relationships with family and friends, financial and criminal problems, and other disastrous symptoms. When individuals recognize behaviors that cause problem gambling disorder, they begin their path to recovery and embark upon a personal journey. Though there is no cure for gambling addiction, a large portion of the recovery journey can be self care (also referred to as Caring for Your Mental Health).

Now what is self care? It’s a holistic approach to taking deliberate, proactive steps to care for your own physical, mental, and emotional health. Individuals find healthy activities they enjoy: exercise, time in nature, meditation and wellness, and ensure they prioritize personal wellbeing to better face their difficulties. Self care helps in reducing depression, anxiety, stress, emotional trauma, and often improves holistic well being. Even small efforts to prioritize self care throughout an individual's day can have an outsize impact. The National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) devotes a significant chunk of focus to self care in their coverage, and even has a set-alone "Mental Health Information" Section on their website (certain pages also available in Spanish).

But where did Self Care come from? What's the history behind the mental health movement? Starting in the late 1800s and continuing throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, significant medical and technological advances created a newfound popularity in the development of novel healthcare professions. Patients now actively sought out doctors (and other healthcare professionals) - an abrupt change from the passive nature of patients previously. The International Self-Care Foundation states that though the low point of self care (around 1950s and 1960s in the West when self care and self medication were often seen as unnecessary patient practices) was only sixty years ago, since then there has been a rush in treatment around the whole individual and a focus on wellness both inside and outside of session.

For those struggling with problem gambling, self care is vital to recovery. As the Birches Health clinical team explores in prior resources: problem gambling is often accompanied by comorbidities including substance abuse, depression, anxiety, and stress. When combined, these feelings may be overwhelming for an individual. When faced separately, individuals are often empowered to focus on incremental progress and recovery as a whole. Self care can allow individuals to take a crucially important break from negative emotions, or allow them to lessen the negative impacts - allowing one to feel more centered and grounded.

Self care comes in many formats. Three self care practices that can be particularly beneficial to individuals struggling with any disorder are exercise, meditation and wellness, and creative activities:

  • Exercise: Exercise has a number of mental and behavioral health benefits. Working out on a steady cadence helps with depression and anxiety as well as reducing symptoms of stress. Depression, anxiety, and stress are often triggers for gambling addiction, and exercising regularly on a constant, comfortable schedule can aid individuals in feeling more calm and relaxed, empowering them to resist the urge to gamble and continue their journey to recovery.

  • Meditation and Wellness: Engaging in the present moment (practicing mindfulness and focusing on meditation and wellness) without judgment can help individuals become aware of their actions, emotions, and thoughts, and may better allow them to understand triggers leading to gambling addiction behaviors. Through self care and increasing internal awareness of themselves while working to build out a mindfulness practice, problem gamblers practice self care.

  • Creative Activities: Creative activities that are enjoyable, fulfilling, and promote a sense of contentment in the individual doing them are crucial to staying focused on recovery. At Birches Health, our team spends time in nature hiking or running and spending time with loved ones, but we encourage each individual to concentrate on what enables them to feel fulfilled!

While self care is important, it’s crucial to note that self care alone is not a substitute for professional treatment from a licensed clinician for problem gambling. However, self care as a complement to professional individual and group therapy is a powerful combination of steps that any problem gambler or those suffering from gambling addiction behaviors can take. Through engaging in self care, one is able to reduce negative feelings and improve their overall quality of existence. If you'd like to have a free, confidential conversation about how self care can aid those struggling with problem gambling, speak with a trained gambling specialist by clicking here.

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