How to Recognize You Have a Gambling Problem
The first step toward recovery from gambling addiction is recognising and admitting that you have a problem. Although this is a cliché in all senses, it is true. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association recognises gambling addiction as a medical condition that most people have no control over.
If you find yourself displaying some or all the behaviours highlighted below, you likely have a gambling problem:
- You feel an obsessive urge to gamble.
- All your spare time is used for gambling.
- You use gambling to cope with stress.
- You grow anxious and irritable when you haven't gambled for a while.
- You take a bigger risk to recover any loss you incur while gambling.
The Effects of Gambling on Your Life
Many people see gambling as a fun and relaxing activity, be it playing casino games, placing a wager on sporting events, putting money on a lottery, or other forms of gambling. However, gambling can go from being fun to a harmful habit with disastrous consequences in your life. Some of the effects that problem gambling results in on the life of a gambler include:
- Mounting Debts: One of the biggest effects of problem gambling on the life of gamblers is debt. You will start spending more than you can afford on gambling, borrowing money, as you also pay out loans to cover your gambling debt, etc.
- Relationship problems: Another negative effect of problem gambling is that it can have a devastating impact on your relationship with others, be it your children, family, or friends. You will find yourself spending less time with your loved ones and arguing, especially about money and your losses while gambling.
- Work problems: Gambling addiction can also result in problems at work. You will find yourself being preoccupied with gambling and finding it difficult to focus on your tasks.
What Kind of Help is Available for Gambling Addiction?
The good news for people suffering from gambling addictions is that while it can be challenging to achieve, recovering from problem gambling is not impossible. You can beat your addiction with the right treatment, which usually involves similar methods to many other forms of addiction.
Behavioural and cognitive behavioural therapy can help deal with your gambling addictions.
Mood stabilizers and antidepressants help deal with the symptoms and conditions that often exist with compulsive gambling.
Many people dealing with gambling disorders find that talking with others who have experienced what they are going through helps in the journey to recovery.
Inpatient rehabilitation program
Although not as frequently required as alcohol or substance abuse, some gambling addicts find that they need to remove themselves completely from their addictive life. Treatment centres with inpatient rehabilitation programmes offer just that, providing 24/7 care, catering to patients' needs, along with the necessary treatments, be it medication or therapy.
How to Make a Plan to Quit Gambling
Although quitting gambling is a challenging endeavour, it is not impossible. The key to success is making the proper plan to quit and avoiding relapses. So, let us consider the four primary elements you need to consider when making a plan for your recovery from gambling:
For recovery to happen, a person suffering from gambling addiction must decide to quit. Without this, the journey to recovery is doomed to fail.
Gambling cannot happen without money. So, you will need to make arrangements to deal with your finances. If possible, get rid of your credit cards, let your spouse or loved one take charge of your spending, and keep only limited cash on you.
Whether online or land-based, gambling cannot happen if you don't have time. So, when you are ready to quit gambling, schedule other enjoyable activities for yourself so that you won’t even have the time to think about gambling.
Without a game or gambling activity to stake on, there will be no opportunity to gamble. So, when making your plans, you should remove yourself from tempting environments.
What to Expect When You First Give Up Gambling
One of the undisputable facts about problem gambling is that quitting is hard. Like any other addiction, those suffering from obsessive gambling disorder will experience serious withdrawal symptoms when they try to quit. After all, your body has already gotten used to the high that gambling gives when you win your bet on sports, play casino games, win a prize in the lottery, and any other gambling form.
The emotional withdrawal symptoms you can expect when you first quit gambling include but are not limited to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and restlessness. These emotional symptoms can also lead to or present themselves as physical symptoms, including headaches, nausea, muscle tension, and palpitations. The intensity of these symptoms tends to differ from one person to another, with some feeling it only lightly while others experience it intensely.
How to Deal with Cravings and Urges to Gamble
Feeling the urge to gamble is normal on the road to recovery. But as you put in the effort to prioritise your choice to quit gambling and start building a strong support system against gambling, you will find it easier to resist the urge to gamble. When you feel the craving starting to come up, here are actions you can take:
- Avoid Isolation: When you are alone, succumbing to gambling habits is far too easy. So, when you feel the urge, call a trusted loved one, meet a friend for lunch, or go to a support group meeting.
- Think of the consequences of giving in to the urge: When you start to feel the urge to gamble, try and visualize what will inevitably happen if you give in. Disappointing yourself and your family again will not be worth the quick pleasure you get from gambling.
- Distract yourself with another activity: Another alternative way you can deal with your gambling urges and cravings is to distract yourself with another fun activity. You can hit the gym, go to the movies, go to the park, or go for any other relaxing activity.
How to Deal with Setbacks and Relapses
There is no denying that the road to recovery from gambling addiction is not easy. More often than not, you will face setbacks and occasional periods of relapse. When relapses and setbacks inevitably happen, it is important not to despair, as this can also be part of the recovery process. It is how you handle these lapses that matters.
How to Stay Motivated to Stay Gambling-free
Quitting gambling is hard, but staying away from gambling after is harder. This is why it is very easy for many recovering gamblers with gambling addiction to end up losing control and succumbing to their urges. As a result, it is very important to find ways to stay motivated during your journey to recovery. So, let us look at some tips to help problem gamblers stay gambling-free.
Find a Support System
While staying away from gambling after quitting on your own is not impossible, having a support system will make it easier and increase your odds of beating the addiction completely. So, it would help if you surrounded yourself with people you can trust to encourage, motivate you and keep you away from gambling.
One of the many things that can cause a relapse for anyone recovering from gambling problems is boredom. This is because it is easy to get tempted to gamble when you have a lot of time on your hands; you should plan your days and avoid extended periods of boredom.
Find New Gambling-free Hobbies
There is no denying that gambling is a hobby, much like any other activity that many people do for fun. However, gambling can be addictive and destructive. So, after quitting gambling, it is important to find one or more new non-addictive hobbies to enjoy.
One of the surest ways to stay away from gambling is to avoid gambling triggers. When recovering gamblers come across these triggers, they often relapse. These triggers can be different from one person to another. It can be traumatic circumstances, stress on the job or elsewhere, emotional upheaval like anxiety or depression, or loneliness.
How to Rebuild your Life after Quitting Gambling
There is no denying that gambling addiction can result in some undesirable problems and consequences. As a result, while it will be different from one person to another, there is usually a lot to deal with once the dust settles.
Below are some of the steps you can take to get started.
- Commit yourself to your relationship with others and yourself with consistency, compassion, and honesty.
- Find a balanced routine to approach daily activities and avoid doing anything in excess.
- Start rebuilding your finances.
- Continue counselling to avoid relapse and reoccurrence of your precarious situation.
The warning signs of gambling addiction include but are not limited to gambling to relieve stress or escape problems, spending more than you can afford, trying to control or stop gambling unsuccessfully, etc.
Gambler Anonymous is a support group that consists of people who share their experiences with others to solve their common problems with gambling addiction.
Long-term gambling addiction can result in mounting debts, relationship issues, problems at work, and mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and other similar issues.
Which Organisations Help With Problem Gambling?
Several organisations can help people with gambling issues
- Gamblers Anonymous;
- Gamble Aware;
- Gordon Moody;
- Gambling Awareness Trust.
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