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Gambling Addiction: Causes, and How to Get Help

Gambling can be all fun and games until you get addicted, and it becomes a problem. Are you, or someone close to you dealing with a gambling addiction?

Search no further for ways to get your problems solved, as we’ve got you covered in this article.

What are gambling addiction and gambling problems?

Gambling problems are believed to be a male-specific issue, but unreality it can happen to anyone from any gender and all walk of life.

In the beginning, gambling is nothing but fun, then it grows into a harmless diversion, and finally into an unhealthy obsession that leads to very serious consequences.

Whether what you do is to bet on sports, roulette, poker, scratch cards, or slots—in a casino, online, at the track —a gambling problem can not only strain your relationships, it can go as far as interfering with work, and leading to seeing financial disaster that may render you hopeless.

You may even do find yourself doing things you never imagined you would do, such as running up huge debts or going as far as stealing money just to gamble.

Gambling addiction is also known as compulsive gambling, pathological gambling, or gambling disorder. It can be defined as an impulse-control disorder.

If you are an impulsive gambler, you can not control the urge to gamble, even when you know it has negative consequences for your finances, you as a person or your loved ones.

You’ll find a way to gamble whether you’re sick or well, broke or flush, up or down and you will continue to gambling inspire of the consequences—even when the odds are obviously against you or you can’t take the risk of losing.

Of course, it is possible for you to have a gambling problem without getting completely out of control. We refer to any gambling behaviour that disrupts a person’s life as problem gambling.

If you are preoccupied with gambling activities, if you spend more and more of your time and hard-earned money on gambling, chasing losses, or engaging in gambling despite serious life, relationship, and financially consequences, you are dealing with a gambling problem.

A gambling addiction or problem is often linked with many other behaviours or mood disorders. It has been discovered that many problem gamblers may also deal with unmanaged ADHD, substance abuse issues, stress, anxiety, depression, or bipolar disorder.

In order to successfully overcome your gambling issues, you must first also address the above, and any other underlying causes alongside.

Even though it may feel like you don’t have the power to stop gambling, there are lots of things you can try out to help you overcome the gambling problem, fix your finances and relationships, and finally get back full control of your life.

The first step you must take to get your life back is to separate the gambling myths from the facts.

Facts and myths about gambling problems

  • Myth: You must engage in gamble activities every day to be called a problem gambler.
  • Fact: A person who is a problem gambler may gamble often or infrequently. No matter how regular or irregular your gambling is, it’s a problem if it causes you problems.
  • Myth: Problem gambling is not really considered a problem if the person involved can afford it.
  • Fact: There are more problems caused by excessive gambling than just financial ones. Spending too much time on gambling activities can also cause job loss, relationship and legal problems, mental health problems such as depression and anxiety, as well as suicide.
  • Myth: Dealing with a gambling problem is nothing but a case of being weak-willed, unintelligent, or irresponsible.
  • Fact: Nobody is a superhuman when it comes to gambling. Gambling problems can affect individuals of all levels of intelligence and all kinds of background. Individuals who were previously responsible and strong-willed are just as vulnerable to developing a gambling problem as someone who has never been serious about anything.
  • Myth: Family members or partners of problem gamblers are often the reason their loved one’s gambling.
  • Fact: Just like most other people, problem gamblers often attempt to rationalize their behaviour. Pushing the blame on other people is one of the ways they try to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including doing what is necessary to overcome the problem.
  • Myth: Whenever a problem gambler who is close to you builds up a debt, you must help them take to sort it out.
  • Fact: You want to help because you care about them, so quick-fix solutions may seem to be the best thing to do. Nevertheless, bailing the problem gambler out of debt may just make matters worse as it enables their gambling problems to continue in hopes that you’ll always be there to take care of the issues.

Gambling addiction signs and symptoms

Gambling addiction may not seem like a medical condition but is sometimes called a “hidden illness” because as we already know, there are no apparent physical signs or symptoms like are noticeable in drug or alcohol addiction.

Most problem gamblers also find it easy to deny or minimize the problem— not only to outsiders but even to themselves. Nevertheless, you may have a gambling problem if you:

Feel the need there is a need to be secretive about your gambling activities. You might lie about how much gambling you do, or just do it in secret. If you start feeling other people will not understand what you are trying to achieve or that you will surprise them when you finally win big.

Have trouble putting your gambling in check. Once you start gambling, you find it difficult to walk away. Or you are pushed to gamble until you have spent every last cent, upping your bets every time in a bid to win lost cashback.

You gamble even when you don’t have the cash to. You may be in a gambling house until you’ve spent your last dime, and then you move on to spend money that you don’t even have — you exhaust money to pay bills, gamble using credit cards, or money for things your children need.

You may feel the need to borrow, sell your valuables, or even steal things to raise gambling money.

You have friends and family constantly worried about you. Denial is what keeps gambling problem going. If friends and family are constantly worried about you, listen to them carefully and think about the things they say.

It is not a sign of weakness to seek help from your loved ones. It is easier for younger gamblers to seek help, for many older ones, they often become reluctant to reach out to their grown-up children if they have gambled away their children’s inheritance.

Nevertheless, it’s never too late to change your life for the better.

Self-help for gambling problems

Just like many other problems in the world, the biggest step to overcoming your gambling addiction is accepting that you have a problem and need help.

It takes tremendous courage and strength to own up to realise you have a big problem, especially if you have lost your savings and strained or broken your relationships with people you love along the way. Do not despair, and do not try to go through the healing process alone.

Many other people have been dealt with gambling problems before you and were able to break the bad habit and rebuild friendships, mend their lives, and move on. You can, too.

You can learn to relieve unpleasant feelings in better ways. If you gamble only when you’re bored or lonely, or after you’ve had a stressful day at school or work, or after a heated argument with your significant other, then you need help.

Gambling is not a good way to unwind, self-soothe sad or unpleasant emotions, or even socialize.

But there are tons of healthier and more useful ways to relieving boredom and managing your moods, such as cooking, exercising, spending time with friends who do not have gambling problems, taking up new interesting hobbies, or even practising some easy relaxation techniques.

You can strengthen your support network no matter how self-dependent you think you are. It is really tough to battle an addiction without any physical or emotional support, so do not hesitate to reach out to your family and friends.

If you have a limited support network, there are many ways you can make some new friends without having to visit casinos or even gamble online.

One of those ways is to try reaching out to your colleagues at work, joining a sports team or learning some DIY, volunteering for a good cause, or enrolling in an education class.

You can also join a peer support group such as gamblers Anonymous. Just like gamblers anonymous, is a twelve-step recovery program that is patterned after Alcoholics Anonymous, you can find other groups that will keep you preoccupied as they help you heal.

A major part of the 12 weeks recovery program is to find a sponsor, usually an ex-gambler who has lots of experience staying free from addiction and can also provide you with the right guidance and support.

Also, seek help for any underlying mood disorders. Stress, depression, substance abuse, or even anxiety are known to both trigger gambling problems and become worse when compulsive gambling starts.

Because even when you finally get gambling out of your life, these underlying problems will still remain, so it is very important that you address them.

How to stop gambling for good

debt

For many addicted gamblers, The biggest challenge is not quitting gambling, but rather staying, not going back to it after recovery—making a lifetime commitment to stay as far away from gambling as possible.

With the Internet being the centre of everything these days, it has made gambling by far more accessible and, thus, more difficult for recovering addicts to avoid cases of relapse.

There is no closing time for online casinos and bookmakers because they are open all day, and every day for any person who has a smartphone or good access to the internet.

But maintaining a lifetime recovery from problem gambling or gambling addiction is very much possible if you have yourself surrounded with people whom you’re accountable to, and you avoid make sure to stay away from tempting environments and websites.

Try to give up control of your finances (get someone you trust to handle it), and find some other healthier activities to use as a replacement for your activities.

Making healthier choices

One of the ways for you to stop gambling completely is to get rid of all the elements that will encourage the occurrence of gambling in your life and find some healthier replacement for them. There are four elements needed for the continuation of gambling, and they are:

A decision

This is the first step for gambling to happen. Every gambler needs to make a decision to gamble. When you have an urge to gamble: stop whatever you are doing and place a call through to someone, then think about what the consequences of your actions will be, advise yourself to avoid thinking about engaging in gambling, then find something better to do instantly.

Money

You must already know that gambling cannot happen in the absence of money. Hide all of your credit cards, and let your significant other or someone you trust be in charge of your money.

It is also a good idea to have your bank make automatic payments on your behalf, close all online betting accounts, and do not keep too much physical on you.

Time

When you do not have spare time even online gambling cannot happen because time is very necessary. Schedule some very enjoyable recreational time for you and loved ones that has nothing at all to do with gambling.

You may be one of those who gamble on their smartphone, but that too can be curbed by finding other ways to use your quiet moments.

A game

When there is no game or activity to bet on, there will be no opportunity for you to gamble. Make sure you do not put yourself in environments that are tempting.

It may seem like a counterproductive idea to tell gambling establishments you patronise that you have a serious gambling problem and even ask that they restrict you from entering, but it is worth the try.

Uninstall all gambling applications and block gambling all sites on your computer and smartphone.

Finding alternatives to gambling

Maintaining a lifetime recovery from problem gambling depends largely on your ability to find some alternative behaviours that can keep you engaged and act as a substitute for gambling. Below are examples you might like:

  • Reasons for gambling: To get excited, get a good rush of adrenaline
  • Substitute behaviour: Watching action movies, engaging in sport or any other challenging hobby, such as skydiving, mountain biking, Go Kart racing or rock climbing.
  • Reasons for gambling: To become more social and ultimately overcome shyness or isolation
  • Substitute behaviour: Go for counselling, or enrol for a public speaking class, look for a social group to join, connect more with your family and friends, find new friends, volunteer.
  • Reasons for gambling: To numb an unpleasant feeling, or not pay attention to personal or emotional problems.
  • Substitute Behaviour: Try going for therapy or just make use of the HelpGuide’s free Emotional Intelligence toolkit
  • Reasons for gambling: Loneliness or boredom
  • Substitute behaviour: Look for something positive you’re passionate about like dancing, art, sports, music, or books and then look for other people with the same interests by joining groups on social media.
  • Reasons for gambling: To relax your nerves after a stressful day
  • Substitute behaviour: As short as 15 minutes of exercise every day can relieve all your stress. Or try some meditation, deep breathing, or massage
  • Reasons for gambling: To solve your money problems
  • Substitute behaviour: The funny thing about wanting to solve money problems with betting is that the odds are always stacked against you, so a far better option is for you to seek help with debts from your credit counsellor.

Dealing with gambling cravings

It is normal to feel the urge to go out and gamble, but as you make conscious effort to make healthier choices and get a strong support network, it will become a lot easier resisting cravings to gamble.

Whenever a gambling craving strikes, do the following:

Avoid isolation:

Place a call through to a trusted friend or family member, meet a neighbour or friend for coffee, or just walk straight to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting.

Postpone gambling:

Procrastination is the thief of time, but in this case, it is a good thing. Tell yourself that you have to wait for 5 minutes, 20 minutes, or even an hour. The longer you wait, the more likely it is for the urge to gamble to pass or just become weak enough for you to resist.

Visualize all the bad things that will happen to you and those you love if you give in to the craving to gamble. Imagine the feeling you’ll get when all your money is gone and you can’t get them back, and how you’ love disappointing yourself and your family again.

You can distract yourself with another activity, such as an interesting movie, going to the gym, live streaming good events, or practising a relaxation exercise to push off gambling cravings.

Coping with lapses

If you are not finding it easy to resist the gambling craving, don’t be feeling like you’re alone, because it is very normal.

Try not to be too hard on yourself or see it as a weakness or an excuse to give up. It is a very tough process to overcome gambling addiction.

You may slip off the right part from time to time; the most essential thing is to take lessons from the mistakes you have made and continue working towards getting better and maintaining recovery.

Gambling addiction treatment

Overcoming a gambling addiction is not an easy task and seeking professional treatment is not a sign that you’re weak in any way or can not handle your problems on your own.

But it is vital to bear in mind that every gambler is unique so what you need is a recovery program specifically tailored to meet your unique needs and situation. Have a talk with your doctor or mental health professional about the treatment options available, including:

Inpatient or residential treatment or even rehab programs. Programs like these are aimed at people with severe gambling problems who are unable to fight the gambling urge without having round-the-clock support.

Getting treatment for underlying conditions that may be contributing to your compulsive gambling, such as ADHD, substance abuse or depression, OCD, and anxiety.

This treatment may include medications, therapy, and some lifestyle changes. Gambling addiction can sometimes be another word for bipolar disorder, so it is needed that your doctor or therapist rule this out as a possibility before finally making a diagnosis.

Cognitive-behavioural therapy (CBT) for the treatment of gambling addiction focuses mainly on changing all of the unhealthy gambling thoughts and behaviours, such as false beliefs and rationalizations.

It can also help you know how best to fight gambling urges and also solve work, financial, and relationship issues that are caused by problem gambling. With therapy, you can get the needed tools for coping with your gambling addiction that will last you a lifetime.

Family therapy, as well as credit, marriage, and career counselling. All these can greater help you work through all the specific problems that may have been developed by your gambling problem and lay the foundation for fixing your finances and relationships.

How to help someone stop gambling

If your friend or loved one has been dealing with a gambling problem, you may likely have several conflicting emotions and it’s normal.

You may have spent a lot of energy and precious time trying to keep that loved one of yours from gambling or even cover for them. You might all be feeling a lot of negative emotions like being furious at that person for gambling yet again and you get tired of trying to keep up the charade.

Chances are, that loved one of yours may have borrowed or stolen some money with no feasible way to pay the cashback.

Worse still, may have sold some valuable family possessions or even run up some huge debts on a joint credit card. All of these are not enough reason to give up on them just yet.

While people with problem gambling need all the support and love of their family and friends to get over their struggle to avoid gambling, note that the decision to change has to be theirs to make.

As much as you may want to be of help, and as difficult as it is seeing the effects of their actions, you cannot force a person to stop gambling.

However, what you can do is to encourage them to get help, protect yourself, and be of support to them in their efforts, and most importantly, take any talk or sign of suicide seriously.

Comment below if you’d like to share your thoughts, or experiences with problem gambling.

This article is for informational/educational purposes only. Healthtian does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, read more.

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