Reviewed by Aaron Horn, LMFT
For some people, gambling is something they hardly ever do. It’s like golfing or going to the movies — just something to keep us busy or entertain us on a boring night.
Unfortunately, some people take gambling to another extreme. It’s not just something they do from time-to-time, but it’s something they do every week (if not everyday). Not only that, but they gamble with money they either don’t have or money they should be saving for something else.
Much like anything, gambling is completely fine in moderation, but most people don’t stop there. In fact, nearly 2.5 million adults suffer from compulsive gambling, while another 3 million are considered ‘problem gamblers’ and 15 million are considered at-risk of becoming a ‘problem gambler.’
Outside of that, there are millions gamblers in the United States alone — any of whom could develop an addiction.
Why is Gambling Bad?
Whether you want to admit it or not, gambling addictions are classified as behavioral addictions. That means a gambling addiction is viewed the same as substance abuse in many cases.
While they are two completely different things, scientists and researchers have discovered growing similarities between the two addictions — both behaviorally and by measuring brain activity.
More specifically, scientists have discovered that gambling activates our brain’s reward system the same way a drug does. Scientists believe many problem gamblers don’t see a lot of activity from their reward system (the ventral striatum) or prefrontal cortex normally.
This lack of activity is why many problem gamblers turn to something like gambling to activate that reward system. Since the prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision-making and controlling our impulses, you can start to see how the reward from gambling messes with our ability to make the right decision.
Furthermore, scientists have revealed that a near-win in gambling is just as effective to the brain as an actual win. That’s why gamblers are extremely prone to continue gambling when they’re coming close to a win, thinking they’ll eventually get it (but rarely do).
Still, scientists and researchers continue to uncover more about the effects of gambling on the brain. There’s still a lot to understand when teaching problem gamblers how to regain control of their life, but we’ve certainly come a long way in the past 50 years.
How to Quit Gambling Your Life Away
Now that you understand the dangers of gambling and why it only seems to get worse over time, it’s time to start learning how to move past this type of addiction to regain your quality of life.
It can be an uphill battle for most, but one you and your loved ones must take if you want to get the right gambling help. With this step-by-step guide on how to stop gambling, you can start to gain back your sense of fulfillment and sense of direction in life.
Step 1: Admit You’re Addicted
One of the most difficult steps in this process is coming to grips with the fact that you have an addiction. Many people don’t want to admit that they have an addiction, or they aren’t aware of how their addiction is affecting others, or they are too ashamed of others knowing.
Getting over this first hump is a major step in the right direction. It’s difficult for anyone to make a lifestyle change — especially one of this magnitude — unless they truly feel they need to.
Before you jump to any conclusions, try asking yourself these questions first:
- Do you gamble when you’re stressed or anxious?
- When you lose, do you continue betting until you’re out of money?
- Do you find yourself skipping valuable time with loved ones to go gamble?
- Do you have to lie to anyone about how much you gamble?
- Have you made several unsuccessful attempts at stopping, but still find yourself needing a fix?
- Do you ever find yourself thinking about gambling, even when you’re not gambling?
If you answered Yes to any of the questions above, there’s a good chance you’re struggling with a gambling addiction. Understand that you won’t find help unless you want to find help. Once you come to that realization, you can finally start to make some progress.
Step 2: Find the Root of the Problem
Once you can admit you have an addiction, you will give yourself the headspace and motivation to start making the right decisions when learning how to quit gambling. The next step in the process is finding the root of the problem.
For example, most people gamble because it’s a fun way to socialize with others — while also giving you the opportunity to make a quick buck. Unfortunately, those that have a gambling addiction generally gamble for other reasons.
Some people do it to satisfy their stress, anxiety, or depression. Others might start gambling because they lost their job and are looking for an easy way to make some quick cash. On the other hand, some people have a gambling addiction due to influence from a family member or friend.
The root problem of gambling addiction is different for everyone, but it’s often the key to eliminating those urges you feel constantly throughout the day.
Step 3: Join a Support Group
Thus far, you’ve managed to admit that you have a problem and even found the root of your problem. With those two steps out of the way, you can start to seek assistance from others. Support groups might be the best option for you.
Support groups consist of both professionals and people who are going through — or already went through — the same thing you’re going through. Since everyone has a different experience with gambling addiction, it’s best to find support groups with people going through similar issues as you are.
You can also call the gambling hotline at any time because their lines are open 24/7 for people that need help. Their number is 1-800-522-4700 and you should never hesitate to call if you need help.
Step 4: Find New Hobbies
Now that you have people in your corner, it’s time to start helping yourself by finding alternatives to gambling.
There are many potential hobbies out there and many other ways to spend your time — many of which won’t involve spending or losing any money. Instead of setting yourself up to lose money, you can set yourself up to save that money and have fun doing something else.
For this step, you need to expand your horizons and understand that there’s always something out there for you to explore. Think about getting outside or taking a trip to a national park. Take advantage of everything life has to offer.
Step 5: Hold Yourself Accountable
As you start to fill your ‘gambling time’ with ‘valuable time,’ you’ll come across certain moments, days, or even weeks where things get difficult. You might see a commercial for a casino or see someone gambling in a movie.
The key to this step is holding yourself accountable. It’s okay to feel those urges, but you have to know how to properly respond to those urges and redirect them to something more important or fulfilling.
Understand that urges are normal and it’s something everyone feels throughout the day for a wide variety of things. As long as you don’t act on these impulses and know how to control yourself when they arise, you’ll be fine moving forward.
Step 6: Call a Therapist
Sometimes, gambling addictions are too much for individuals to handle by themselves. This is nothing to be ashamed of and something many people are faced with daily. Of course, these people can only receive the help they need when they call a professional.
It’s important to understand that these professionals are here to help. They take great pride in being able to help others regain control of their life and find what makes them happy. They want to do the same with you, as long as you give them the chance.
One call to a therapist can change your life for the better and Mind Diagnostics is here to assist. We know all the best therapists in your area and are ready to match you with one today.
Are You Struggling With a Gambling Addiction?
If you have a gambling or casino addiction and you don’t know what to do about it, don’t panic. You’re facing a reality that many Americans are faced with each and every day, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a way out. In fact, there’s always a way out if you give yourself a chance.
Since many people are living with a gambling addiction without knowing it — or without having the ability to admit it — Mind Diagnostics created an impressive gambling addiction test that’s available online to people just like you.
It’s an easy test, but one that’ll get to the bottom of your gambling addiction and help you find the next steps moving forward.