What is a gambling urge and why does it matter?

Urges picture

Recognising and dealing with gambling urges can be a really powerful part of recovery. People describe gambling urges in different ways:

  • compulsions
  • an adrenaline rush
  • excitement
  • cravings

It is possible to manage your urges even if they feel overwhelming and difficult to resist.

Sometimes people try to ’white knuckle’ urges by trying not to give into them. This strategy can be very draining and become a vicious cycle that is hard to maintain.

You don’t need to push the urge away or ‘white knuckle’ it.  Urges are like waves in the ocean –   they start small, then grow, but finally break up and disperse.

Next time you are experiencing an urge, stop for a moment and take time to notice what is going on inside your body.  Imagine that the sensations associated with your gambling urge are a wave. Use your breathing to ride these waves until it slowly passes. The urge may grow at first but will eventually subside.

Experiencing gambling urges and allowing them to pass is a natural part of the recovery process.

Remember that your brain cannot maintain an urge to gamble indefinitely and if you wait long enough, the urge will go away. Each time the urge passes and you haven’t gambled, it reduces its power.  Over time it will feel easier to manage these urges.

Urge surfing is a tool that you can use just about anywhere, but it is important to limit access to cash or credit when trying this technique.  Without ready access to money, it will be easier to begin this process.  Urges will not be as strong if money is not easily available.

Other strategies you may find helpful may include:

  • identifying triggers that increase the urge e.g. money is often described as a trigger, especially on pay day. So when you’re feeling vulnerable keep your money or credit cards out of reach.
  • try doing something to distract yourself, like calling a friend, exercising or doing some gardening.

Support is also very important. Talk over the phone to one of our counsellors who can talk to you more about managing your gambling urges. They are on hand 24/7 to offer free and confidential help now.  Call 1800 858 858

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