Is Gambling Getting to You?

Do you think about gambling 24/7?

There are many people who enjoy gambling, whether it’s trying your luck on a horse, playing poker online or spending a few dollars on a night out at the casino with friends. The majority of people who gamble don’t have a problem, but unfortunately there are others who completely lose control of their gambling and spend their every waking moment thinking about gambling or planning when they are going to gamble again.

Continually thinking about gambling tends to spiral and often leads to unpleasant thoughts. Heavy and even moderate gamblers sometimes worry about their losses and think about the reasons they didn’t stop when they were ahead.  They also worry about how to pay their bills and even buy food. People struggling to keep their gambling under control often spend money that is allocated for household expenses and other things on gambling in the hope that they will get a win.  Much of their time is spent planning the next time they will gamble, where they’ll get money from and what excuses they may need to tell family and friends or employers to enable them to spend time gambling.

Becoming preoccupied with gambling tends to make gamblers feel depressed, sometimes suicidal and anxious and may further fuel their need to gamble. Remember if you are having suicidal thoughts, call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 or Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24hrs) to access support services and help immediately.

Unfortunately, rather than recouping losses as intended, many gamblers end up losing even more money and then the worrying thoughts start all over again. They are caught up in a cycle of chasing their losses and are never are able to come out on top.

Did you know the average Australian gambler spends $21,000 a year? That’s a third of the average annual wage. How much do you spend a year? This hard-earned money could have been spent on bills, a mortgage or taking the family away on a relaxing vacation or many other activities.

Problem gamblers are four times more likely to suffer from alcohol abuse.  Binge gambling, with very big losses, mostly happens when heavy drinking gets mixed in with gambling. If this is a problem for you, try to make some rules for yourself such as not taking money or credit cards with you when you go out drinking, or try not to drink when you gamble. If you try to drink sensibly you can perhaps avoid both a gambling hangover and the other kind.

Families can be affected if a spouse is a problem gambler. In many instances, heavy gambling leads to the loss of quality time spent together as a family.  This lost quality time can never be recovered and partners can become resentful when their partner is spending a lot of their time gambling either at a venue or preoccupied by online gambling.

Did you know that people with gambling problems are six times more likely than non-gamblers to get divorced? Whether you’re a partner, friend or relative, there are many sources of help and support for you as well as for those who have a gambling problem just click here.

The good news is that many people can control their compulsive gambling with therapy and working with a specialist to put strategies in place to overcome urges and better manage thoughts and behaviours.

Here are a few ways to manage worrying thoughts about gambling:

  • Sometimes gamblers think they have had enough of these worrying thoughts and try to stop them ‘head on’ and by going ‘cold turkey’ trying to quit only to find this actually makes them worse.
  • Try to just let the thoughts be, focus on what you are actually doing such as talking to your friend, watching a movie, working, eating, walking, exercising and so on. This means ‘staying present in the moment’ and not worrying about past gambling or planning future gambling.
  • If you are aware that you are worrying about gambling and want to stop, try to distract yourself by doing something you enjoy, perhaps visiting a friend (away from the gambling venue) going to the gym, walking, running etc.
  • Some gamblers keep a diary of their thoughts and then when thinking clearly, sit down and try to question the accuracy of them, questioning is it really easy to win or do you always win, whether they really are ahead etc.
  • Some people find that by allocating specific worrying time (around half an hour per day), their worrying gambling thoughts do not intrude into other areas of their life such as their work and relationships.
  • Some people find meditation, yoga and relaxation very effective techniques for coping with their intrusive gambling thoughts. This also helps with stress and enables them to sleep more restfully.

Remember by sometimes giving your worrying thoughts ‘a voice by talking to a trusted person’ (a counsellor, doctor, good friend, family member) you can feel better and gain effective longer term relief. Call Gambling Help 1800 858 858, click on this link to talk to an online counsellor or visit www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au to find information and strategies to tackle problem gambling.

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