If you thought that gambling problems arise only in those that spend an inordinate amount of time in close proximity to casinos, then you’re sadly mistaken. Gambling problems can happen to anyone regardless of their background.
And it usually goes from gambling as an occasional, fun and harmless recreational activity to a detrimental obsession that carries with it dire and severe consequences for you and the people in your surroundings.
Regardless if you bet on sports, scratch cards, roulette, poker, or slots — in a casino, at the race track, or online — a gambling problem can put an incredible amount of stress on your relationships, obstruct with work, and more times than not, result in financial ruin. Worse, it can even lead to you doing things that you never thought you could rack up massive debt or worse, commit a crime to fund your gambling habit.
Gambling addiction — which is also referred to as pathological gambling, compulsive gambling or gambling disorder — is defined as an impulse-control disorder. If you’re a compulsive gambler, you really no control whatsoever over the impulse to gamble, even when it has adverse results for you or your loved ones. You’ll gamble regardless if you’re up or down, broke or flush, and you’ll keep gambling no matter the consequences, even when you know that your back is against the wall or you can’t bear to lose.
Of course, you can also have a gambling problem without being completely out of control. Problem gambling is virtually any gambling behavior that interrupts your normal way of life. If you’re preoccupied with gambling, spending more and more time and money on it, chasing losses, or gambling despite serious consequences in your life, you have a gambling problem.
A gambling addiction or problem is often linked to other behavior or mood ailments. A lot of problem gamblers also suffer from substance abuse problems, ADHD, stress, depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder. To curb and even beat your gambling problems, you’ll also need to tackle these and any other underlying issues as well.
Although it may feel like you’re helpless in putting an end to your gambling problem, there are a lot of things you can actually do to beat it, restore your relationships and assets, and most importantly, regain control over your life.
However, one of the very first steps that you need to do is be aware of what you are up against. First, let’s go ahead and debunk myths that you often hear or read about gambling problems:
Myths and Facts about Gambling Problems
1) Myth: You have to gamble each and every day in order to become a problem gambler.
Fact: A problem gambler may gamble often or rarely. Gambling is a problem if it indeed leads to problems.
2) Myth: Problem gambling is not really an issue if the gambler can afford it.
Fact: Problems that are caused by extreme gambling do not just impact finances. Too much time spent on gambling can also result in a relationship getting strained or broken and legal problems, job loss, mental health concerns that include depression and anxiety, and in the worst of cases, suicide.
3) Myth: Having a gambling problem is just a result of being weak when it comes to will or, being irresponsible.
Fact: Gambling problems impact people of all degrees of intellect and from all walks of life. Responsible and strong-willed people are just as likely to foster a gambling problem as anyone else.
4) Myth: Partners of problem gamblers often push their loved ones to gamble.
Fact: Problem gamblers most times try to make sense of their behavior. Pinning the blame on others is one way to avoid taking responsibility for their actions, including what they need to do to overcome the issue.
5) Myth: If a problem gambler racks up debt, you should help them take care of it.
Fact: Band-aid solutions may appear to be the ideal thing to do. However, bailing the gambler out of debt may make the problem worse as it just enables them to keep on gambling without taking responsibility.
What are Gambling Addiction Signs and Symptoms to Take Note Of?
Gambling addiction is occasionally referred to as a “hidden illness” because there are no clear-cut physical signals or symptoms like there are in say drug or alcohol addiction. Problem gamblers also usually refute or compartmentalize the problem, even to themselves.
However, you may be suffering from a gambling problem if you are experiencing any of these symptoms:
1) You are reticent when it comes to your gambling.
You might gamble in secret or even lie about how much you wager, feeling others will judge you.
2) Struggle to control your gambling.
Once you begin gambling, can you possibly just walk away? Or do you feel the need to keep on gambling until you have absolutely nothing left, upping your bets in a desperate effort to win lost money back?
3) Keep on gambling even when you no longer have money.
You may gamble until you’ve spent your cache, and then, move on to money you have allotted for more important matters such as the electricity bill, your credit card bill or even money set aside for your child’s tuition. You may feel compelled to borrow, sell, or even rob other people just to get your hands on money to gamble with.
4) Have family and friends worried.
If your friends and family are worried sick about you, perhaps it’s about time that you listen to them. It’s not a sign of weakness to actually ask for help. A lot of older gamblers are hesitant to reach out to their adult children if they’ve gambled away their inheritance, but it’s never too late to make changes for the good.
Are There Things That You Can Do?
The first and biggest step that you can possibly take to beat a gambling addiction is to realize and admit that you do have a problem. It takes an incredible amount of strength and courage to take responsibility, especially if you have lost a lot of money and strained or shattered relationships along the way. Don’t lose hope, and don’t try to go down a path all by yourself. A lot of people have already gone through the very same problem that you are up against and have been able to break the habit and make their lives whole again. There is no reason that you can’t do the same thing as well.
1) Deal with unpleasant feelings in better ways.
Gambling may be a method to give yourself a reprieve from horrid emotions, unwind, or socialize. But there are better and more effective ways of dealing with your moods and mitigating boredom, like exercising, spending more time with friends who don’t gamble, taking up a new hobby, or trying out relaxation methods.
2) Bolster your support network.
It’s difficult to battle any kind of addiction without any support, so it’s best that you reach out to friends and family. If your support network is restricted, there are ways to make new friends without leaning on casinos or gambling online. Try reaching out to your friends at work, joining a sports team or a book club, registering for an education class, or volunteering at a shelter.
3) Participate in a peer support group.
Gamblers Anonymous, for one, is a twelve-step recovery program that is taken after Alcoholics Anonymous. A crucial part of the program is looking for a sponsor, a former gambler who has gone through the remaining free from addiction and can give you significant and substantial guidance and support.
4) Look for assistance to alleviate underlying mood disorders.
Depression, stress, substance abuse, or anxiety can both initiate gambling problems and make it even worse by compulsive gambling. Even when gambling is no longer a part of your life, these problems will still endure, so it’s crucial to tackle them the right way and at the soonest possible time.
How to Stop Gambling
For a lot of problem gamblers, it’s not quitting gambling that poses the biggest hurdle, but rather sustaining it, which means making a permanent choice to stay away from gambling.
Just how difficult is it? The Internet has made gambling a lot more accessible these days and, therefore, a lot more difficult for recovering addicts to avoid relapse. Online casinos and bookmakers are open 24/7, every day for anyone with a smartphone or access to a computer. But maintaining recovery from gambling addiction or problem gambling is still very much possible if you keep yourself surrounded with people to whom you’re accountable, elude tempting settings and websites, give up control of your finances (temporarily), and find better activities to take the place of gambling in your life.
Making Better Choices
A fine way to put a stop to gambling is to take away all the elements necessary for gambling to happen in your life and replace them with better choices. The four elements essential to stop gambling dead in its tracks are:
1) Make a Decision
For gambling to occur, you need to make the call to gamble. If you have an inkling to: stop what you are doing and give someone a call, think about the adverse effects of your actions, tell yourself to stop thinking about gambling, and find something else to do straightaway.
Without money, you can’t gamble. It’s as simple as that. So get rid of your credit cards, let someone else be in charge of your resources, have the bank make automatic payments for you, close online betting accounts, and keep only a limited amount of cash on you.
Much like money, you really can’t take up gambling if you don’t have the time to.
So keep yourself as busy as possible by scheduling enjoyable recreational time for yourself that has nothing to do with gambling. If you’re gambling on your smartphone, find other ways to fill the quiet moments during your day.
4) A game
What will you wager on if there isn’t a game or activity to bet on? Simply put: don’t put yourself in situations where you might be tempted to gamble. Tell gambling establishments you often go to that you have a gambling problem and tell them to keep you from entering their place. Remove gambling apps and block gambling sites on your smartphone and computer.
Suitable Alternatives to Gambling
Maintaining recovery from gambling addiction relies heavily on searching out alternative behaviors that you can substitute for gambling. Some great ideas include:
1) If excitement or a rush of adrenaline is what you are after
You can try your hand at a sport or a challenging hobby, such as mountain biking, rock climbing, or Go Kart racing
2) If you want to be more social and overcome coyness or isolation
You can try to seek counseling, enroll in a public speaking class, join a social group, connect with family and friends, volunteer, find new friends
3) To put down unpleasant feelings and not think about problems you might be facing
You can try therapy or talk to a good friend about whatever it is that you are facing
4) If you are bored or lonely
Try and find something you’re avid about like art, music, sports, or books and then find others with the same interests
5) If you want to unwind after a particularly hectic day
Try exercising for 15 minutes as this has been proven to help relieve you of stress. You can also try deep breathing, meditation, or massage.
6) To solve money problems
The odds are always stacked against you so it’s far better to seek help with debts from a credit counselor
How to help someone stop gambling
If your loved one or someone you know is suffering from a gambling problem, you likely have many a lot of conflicting emotions. You may have spent a lot of time and energy trying to keep your loved one from getting into that vice or having to cover for them.
At the same time, you might be mad at your loved one for gambling once again and tired of trying to keep up the farce. Your loved one may have loaned or even robbed money with no means of paying it all back. They may have pawned priceless family heirlooms or racked up massive debts on many different credit cards.
While compulsive and problem gamblers need the support of their family and friends to help them gain control over their gambling problem, the decision to quit has to be made by them and them alone. As much as you may want to, and as difficult as it is seeing the impact it has on them and the people surrounding them, you cannot make someone stop gambling.
However, you can encourage them to seek help, support them in their efforts, protect yourself, and take any talk of suicide seriously.
Useful Tips for Family Members of Those Who Have Gambling Problems
1) Take the first step by helping yourself.
Don’t blame yourself for the gambler’s problems or let his or her addiction take over your life. Ignoring your own needs can be a recipe for burnout.
2) Don’t face this problem alone.
It can feel so crushing when you are trying to cope with a loved one’s gambling addiction that it may seem far easier to rationalize their requests “this one last time.” Or you might feel embarrassed, feeling like you are the only one who has issues like this. Reaching out for support will make you understand that many families have also gone through this kind of issue and may have a word or two that can help you out.
3) Put up boundaries in managing money.
To make sure that the gambler stays accountable and to keep relapse from happening, consider temporarily controlling over the family finances. However, this does not mean you are responsible for micromanaging the problem gambler’s impulses to gamble. Your first tasks are to make sure that your own finances and credit are not compromised.
4) Consider how you will deal with requests for money.
Problem gamblers often become very adept at requesting for money, either directly or implicitly. They may utilize pleading, manipulation, or even threats to acquire it. It takes a lot of practice to guarantee you are not enabling your loved one’s gambling addiction.