Self Help for Gambling Addiction

Apr 29, 2024

Gambling addiction, also known as compulsive gambling or pathological gambling, is a serious mental health disorder that can have devastating consequences on an individual's life. It is characterized by an uncontrollable urge to gamble, despite the negative consequences it may bring. Problem gambling, on the other hand, refers to a pattern of gambling behavior that disrupts one's life and causes significant distress.

In either case, a person dealing with gambling that is negatively impacting their life may have a hard time stopping and finding help. While a professional therapist will provide the surest path to recovery, there are self help options available. 

Gambling addiction signs and symptoms

Recognizing addiction is the first step to recovery. Some common signs and of gambling addiction include:

  • Preoccupation with gambling thoughts and activities

  • Lying about or hiding gambling behavior

  • Chasing losses by gambling more to try to recoup losses

  • Restlessness or irritability when trying to cut down or stop gambling

  • Risking significant relationships, employment, or educational opportunities due to gambling

If you are experiencing any, or all of these, signs you may have a gambling addiction that needs attention. A professional can most accurately help identify a gambling problem. 

Understand the Problem

The first step in overcoming a gambling addiction is to understand the nature of the problem. Gambling addiction is a complex disorder that involves psychological, emotional, and behavioral factors. It is essential to recognize that it is a real addiction, similar to substance abuse disorders, and that it requires professional help and a comprehensive approach to overcome. While professional help is invaluable, self-help strategies play a crucial role in overcoming this addiction. By understanding the problem, identifying triggers, and developing coping mechanisms, those struggling with gambling addiction can regain control and reclaim their lives. Here are some steps to help with overcoming gambling addiction:

Know Your Triggers

Identifying the triggers that lead to gambling behavior is crucial. Triggers can be emotional states, such as stress, anxiety, or boredom, or external factors like being around gambling environments or receiving gambling-related advertisements. By recognizing these triggers, you can develop strategies to avoid or cope with them effectively.

Identify Thoughts and Feelings

Gambling addiction is often accompanied by distorted thought patterns and intense emotions. It is essential to identify and challenge these irrational beliefs and emotions. For example, the belief that a big win will solve all your problems or the feeling of excitement associated with gambling should be recognized and addressed. Gambling addiction often involves distorted beliefs about luck, probability, and the ability to control outcomes. Challenging these beliefs through education, rational thinking, and cognitive-behavioral therapy can help break the cycle of addiction.

Delay Desires

When faced with the urge to gamble, it is essential to delay the decision to act on that urge. This technique, known as "urge surfing," involves riding out the wave of intense desire to gamble until it passes. Over time, the urges will become less frequent and less intense.

Recognize the Benefits of Stopping

Overcoming a gambling addiction can bring numerous benefits, such as improved financial stability, stronger relationships, and better mental health. Recognizing and focusing on these benefits can provide the motivation needed to overcome the addiction.

Seek Out Healthy Alternatives

Replacing gambling with healthier activities can help fill the void left by the addiction. Engaging in hobbies, exercise, or volunteering can provide a sense of purpose and enjoyment while avoiding the negative consequences of gambling.

Mind Your Health

Maintaining good physical and mental health is crucial when overcoming a gambling addiction. This includes getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet, and engaging in regular exercise. Additionally, seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor can provide valuable support and guidance throughout the recovery process.

Renew Relationships

Isolating oneself from family and friends is a common consequence of gambling addiction. Reconnecting with loved ones and building a supportive social network can help prevent relapse and provide a sense of accountability and encouragement.

Join Support Groups

Support groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous (GA), and 12-step programs like Gambling Addiction Recovery (GAR) can provide a safe and supportive environment for individuals struggling with gambling addiction. These groups offer a sense of community, shared experiences, and valuable resources for recovery.

Use an App

For those who gamble online, using tools like gambling blockers or self-exclusion programs can help limit access to gambling websites and apps, making it easier to resist temptation. Some apps can also provide motivation in halting gambling. There are even features to reach out to somebody when you are struggling. 

Self-exclusion

Similar to knowing your triggers, self-exclusion involves distancing yourself from situations where you would normally gamble. This could be avoiding a trip to Las Vegas or the race track. This can be an effective way to avoid high-risk situations and reduce the temptation to gamble.

Treatment Options

Overcoming a gambling addiction is a journey that requires patience, perseverance, and a commitment to personal growth. By utilizing self help strategies, seeking professional help, and surrounding yourself with a supportive network, you can regain control over your life and achieve lasting recovery.

Resources:

Compulsive gambling - Diagnosis & treatment - Mayo Clinic

Gambling - do you have a problem? - Better Health Channel

Gamblers Anonymous

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