Twelve Ways to Stop Gambling Addiction Forever
Gambling addiction is brutal and highly destructive. It can lead to dire consequences that run the gamut from bankruptcy, job loss, depression, anxiety, loss of friends and family, and even suicide. It is so important for the addict to stop gambling sooner rather than later.
This addiction does not discriminate. If the propensity is there, and the gambler crosses over that invisible line into problem gambling, addiction can occur in anyone’s life. It does not matter whether the person is rich or poor, educated or uneducated. An addiction like this can send people to jail, cause major social and occupational problems, mental instability, and financial devastation that can last for years.
Studies show that problem gamblers are more likely to commit suicide than all other types of addicts combined.
It is important to get help as soon as possible. It isn’t easy to quit gambling, but there are ways you can help yourself before you get to the point of no return. Here are twelve strategies to use to stop gambling and reclaim your life!
Remember the feeling when you lose a lot of money at the casino, online, or through sports betting. Allow yourself to feel that despondency when you are having thoughts about gambling again.
Twelve Tips to Help You Quit Gambling Forever
1. Take a Short Break
When you wake up, make a decision that you will not gamble, just for this one day. If you have to do this an hour at a time, that is okay. Some might have to work one minute at a time, which is fine too, as long as you promise yourself that you will not gamble, and you keep the promise. Schedule your day in a very structured way so you do not have a lot of free time. Forbid yourself from entering a casino, downloading online gaming apps, or visiting gaming websites.
2. Find a Replacement Activity
Find something to replace your gambling. Exercise, go shopping, go out with friends, or do some cooking. You can also rent a movie, listen to some music, or do some reading — do whatever it takes to keep yourself busy. You could pick up a new, exciting hobby, like bike racing or climbing or welding.
Your goal is to stop gambling, and it is not easy when you get such a high from it. Finding replacements, however, can help. Try and see how it goes.
3. Remember How Bad It Feels to Lose
Remember the feeling when you lose a lot of money at the casino, online, or through sports betting. Allow yourself to feel that despondency when you are having thoughts about gambling again. You may find that you are less likely to go out and place a bet. I have done this before, and must admit that these feelings have stopped me from taking that ride to the casino. This hasn't worked every time, but many times this tool has helped.
4. Educate Yourself About Gambling Addiction
Read as much as you can about gambling addiction. Educate yourself, especially about your particular type of gambling. Find out what type of gambler you are and whether you have a gambling problem and have crossed over this invisible line. Are you an escape or an action gambler? Find out what some of your triggers are, as this can help a lot. When you read about gambling addiction, especially the power that it can have on your psyche, you may think twice about going out and placing a bet.
The resources at the end of this article may be of some help to you.
5. Find Self-Help Materials
Seek help. Look for books or courses. Self-hypnosis for gambling problems can also be helpful. Consider joining an online gambling addiction forum. Even if you do not join, reading other people's stories may help you realize that you are not alone. It is crucial that you realize that you are not the only person with this problem. Many share your plight and are looking for answers and support from other gamblers.
Again, there are resources at the bottom of this article that may be of some help to you.
6. Find a Support Group
Attend a Gamblers Anonymous meeting for group support. If you do not want to do a 12-Step program, there is an online program called Smart Recovery. Having support from other gamblers who also want to quit is an important piece of your recovery. Just talking about gambling with other people who understand what you're going through can be really helpful.
7. Hand Over Control of Your Money
Ask a close family member to handle your money. If you do not have money on your person, you will be less apt to impulsively gamble money away. It will be hard, but it is an important step in your recovery. Also, do not allow yourself access to ATM or credit cards. Just keep a small amount of cash with you, so you cannot spend the money gambling.
8. List the Cons of Gambling and the Pros of Quitting
Make a list about how your gambling problem has affected your life in a negative way. Write as much as you can. Make the list on the left side of a sheet of paper so you have room on the right side. On the right side, write about how your life will change for the better when you stop gambling.
9. Make a Financial Plan
Talk to a debt counselor about your gambling debts. Ask for advice about how to relieve financial pressure and solve financial problems caused by your gambling. The financial stress that you have from gambling addiction debts can drive you back to gambling if not addressed. Financial problems are the biggest consequence of gambling, and help is available. Be sure to use a non-profit debt assistance agency, and not one that is for-profit.
10. Get a Good Counselor
See a counselor that specializes in addictions, especially gambling, and talk to this person about your problem. If your addiction is severe, you will need as much support as you can get to stop gambling now.
11. Get Help for Underlying Mood Disorders
Many people with a gambling problem also suffer from depression, anxiety, stress, or other substance abuse issues. These can both trigger compulsive gambling as well as make it worse.
12. Get in the Right Environment
Surround yourself with people that you trust who want to see you recover and avoid any kind of environment where you might be tempted to gamble, which could be anything from a casino, to being at home alone with your smartphone. Delete gambling apps from your phone and tell casinos that you have a problem and that you want them to block you from entering.
Some Final Thoughts
Gambling is a dangerous addictions because of the related risk of suicide. Find help now and make a plan to begin quitting. Take it one day, or hour, at a time and keep in mind how great you will feel when you have come clean and stopped gambling with your life.
More Information About Problem Gambling
Do You Have a Problem With Gambling?
There are many terms that are used to describe gambling problems, including "problem," "at risk," "compulsive," "disordered," and "pathological."1
The American Psychiatric Association uses the term "gambling disorder," in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders to describe the most severe form of gambling problems. Keep in mind, however, that individual experiences with gambling can differ wildly from person to person.
According to the Manual, a gambling disorder is characterized by:
- A preoccupation with gambling
- The perceived inability to cut back or control one's gambling
- Irritability or restlessness when one tries to cut back or stop gambling
- Risking more money to reach the same levels of excitement as before
- Gambling to escape problems or depression
- "Chasing" gambling losses with more gambling to try to make up for them
- Deceiving family and friends with regard to gambling habits
- Risking or losing jobs or relationships because of gambling
- Relying on others for the financial needs caused by gambling
If you're experiencing any or all of the above to any degree, it's likely that you don't have a normal relationship with gambling. You don't need to be completely out of control in order to have a problem with gambling.2 In fact, problem gambling is any kind of behavior that disrupts your life, regardless of how much you gamble or how much money is at stake.
Gambling addiction is frequently seen alongside other forms of psychiatric disorders, such as depression and anxiety.3 It is also seen frequently alongside other kinds of addictions.4
Just because you have a problem with gambling does not mean you are a weak-willed, irresponsible person. Strong-willed or responsible people are just as likely to develop a gambling disorder as anyone else.
A Note on Recovery
The path to recovery differs for each individual, and there is no consensus in the scientific community regarding the best treatment for addiction. Some people recover spontaneously, some do it alone or one-on-one with a therapist, others in group settings or a combination of the two.5 Half of all addictions end by age 30,6 but only 1 in 10 of the 23.5 million teenagers addicted to alcohol and drugs seek treatment, and when they do, it's often in places that do not use evidence-based care.
This is just to say that addiction treatment is a complex issue. In your journey, don't be afraid to try many options for treatment, even ones that might seem contradictory. Relapse is likely, but so is regaining a life without addiction.
Some of the tools people have used include:
- Cognitive behavioral therapy
- Group therapy
- Harm-reduction techniques
- In-patient treatment programs
- Marriage and credit counseling
If you need to reach out to someone, you can call:
- US: The National Council on Problem Gambling Helpline — a free, confidential, 24-hr helpline for problem gamblers and their family members
- UK: Gamcare — a UK-based line offering help and support to those struggling with gambling addiction or their family members.
HelpGuide's list of resources (at the bottom of the article that the link sends you to) is very extensive — It's a good place to start.
Sources and Resources
1. "What is problem gambling or gambling disorder?" 2016. National Center for Responsible Gaming. Accessed April 12, 2017.
The website for the National Center for Responsible Gaming, which has information for researchers about grants they can apply for, research projects funded by the NCRG, and some resources for public education about gambling.
2. Segal, Jeanne Ph.D., Melinda Smith, M.A., and Lawrence Robinson. "Gambling Addiction and Problem Gambling." April 2017. HelpGuide. Accessed April 12, 2017.
A comprehensive resource to compulsive gambling, with many resources for people to begin their recovery journey including worksheets, websites, and support groups, as well as step-by-step guidelines and advice for both compulsive gamblers as well as the people who love them.
3. Martin, Ryan J., Stuart Usdan, Jennifer Cremeens, Karen Vail-Smith. "Disordered gambling and co-morbidity of psychiatric disorders among college students: An examination of problem drinking, anxiety and depression." February 21, 2013. Journal of Gambling Studies. Accessed April 12, 2017.
A scholarly article studying the relationship between gambling and other mood and substance disorders.
4. Nordqvist, Christian. "Gambling Addiction: How Is Gambling Bad for You?" August 19, 2015. Medical News Today. Accessed April 12, 2017.
An article about gambling addiction, its triggers, and treatment for it.
5. Brody, Jane E. "Effective Addiction Treatment." February 4, 2013. New York Times: Well Blog. Accessed April 12, 2017.
A blog post on the current state of addiction treatment in the United States, on the myths that perpetuate it, and on how to choose a treatment program.
6. Szalavitz, Maia. "Can You Get Over an Addiction?" June 25, 2016. New York Times: Opinion. Accessed April 12, 2017.
An article from someone who was formerly addicted to cocaine and heroin about the changing perception of addiction in the United States and new methods for treatment.