Gambling addiction

Problem gambling (often referred to as gambling addiction) is the urge to continuously gamble, despite the negative consequences or a desire to stop.

There are many ways gambling can affect your life. Your relationships and social life can be affected, your mental health can be compromised and problem gambling can have a big impact on your finances. But the thing to remember is that there is a way out and help is available. There are things you can do to start to take back control, rebuild relationships and in time, feel better.

Gambling addiction

With gambling being a large part of society, it can be difficult to know when a habit becomes a problem. Many gamblers do it purely for entertainment, some for the thrill of winning, others for a little escape - and there’s nothing wrong with that. But while doing something you enjoy can be a useful stress relief and diversion from life’s problems, when it stops becoming a diversion and becomes a way of coping, it can cause more harm than good.

When you start to use gambling as a way to escape from other problems, often these issues are only exacerbated. Of course, ignoring a problem doesn’t make it go away, and unfortunately, gambling is an expensive habit. What started as a smaller stressor, can end up a big problem.

But support is available. If you’re worried about your own, or someone else’s, gambling habits, reaching out and asking for help is the brave first step to overcoming the problem.

Hypnotherapy for gambling is one method many people find effective. Through hypnosis and relaxation techniques, hypnotherapy can help the client access the deepest parts of their unconscious, and identify the triggers that led to the addiction.

Once the causes are identified, the therapist will work with the client to help them break out of the negative patterns, learn how to manage their feelings and cope with triggers long after sessions are over.

Recognising problem gambling

There’s a big difference between a person who enjoys an occasional scratchcard or bet at the races every year, and a person who can’t get through the day without gambling. While the lines can blur, there are some signs that indicate a habit may have become a problem, including:

  • You find it difficult to stop or manage your gambling.
  • You spend more money and time gambling than you can afford.
  • You are arguing with loved ones about money and gambling.
  • You have lost interest in activities you previously enjoyed, like spending time with friends.
  • You are always thinking about gambling.
  • You lie about your gambling to others.
  • You are gambling to get out of financial trouble, or gambling until all your money is gone.
  • You need to borrow money, skip bills or sell belongings in order to pay for gambling.
  • You are having to gamble larger amounts of money to get the same feeling of relief or excitement.
  • You are neglecting your work, school, family or personal needs because of gambling.
  • You are feeling anxious, worried, guilty or irritable.

Living with a gambling addiction

As with all compulsive behaviours, living with a gambling addiction can have a seriously negative effect on all aspects of your life. Gambling addiction can be incredibly isolating. Those with a gambling problem typically become very secretive, hiding their habits from friends and loved ones. Not only can you become very lonely, a gambling problem affects not only you, but those around you too.

Watching your partner struggle with an addiction can be extremely distressing. From anger to sadness, to hopelessness, there are many emotions involved in dealing with a loved one who is suffering.

Similarly, your friends can also be affected by your problem. Sometimes addicts will steal from those close to them in order to fund their addiction, or they may drift apart, cancelling plans and declining social invites to feed their habit, until friends no longer ask.

Addiction, whatever the habit, can be incredibly lonely.

Your work life can also be affected. The obsessive nature of a gambling problem can make it very difficult to uphold standards at work. You may lose sleep from gambling online until the early hours, or you can’t concentrate at work due to always thinking about gambling or the impacts it’s already having on your finances and relationships. The more your performance drops, the higher the likelihood of getting noticed and the higher the risk of losing your job.

But know that support is available. Money can already be a difficult topic to talk about and gambling, like other addictions, is often misunderstood. If you’re not comfortable seeking support in the form of your friends or family, consider professional help.

Gambling support 

There are many resources available for you to seek support and talk to people in similar situations, without judgement. If you’re worried about your mental health, it’s important you seek professional advice. A professional can help you take the first steps in the right direction, addressing any potential issues and referring you for further support if needed.

The National Gambling Helpline and the Samaritans are two organisations devoted to providing people with a safe space to talk. Here there is no need to feel ashamed or judged, they are completely confidential and totally anonymous - just someone there to listen.

As well as hypnotherapy for gambling, talking therapies have been found to be effective in managing addictions. Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) in particular can help address some of the underlying issues, as well as coping with the effects of the addiction.

Learn more about CBT and addiction counselling on Counselling Directory.

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Hypnotherapy for gambling

Hypnotherapy for addiction aims to access your unconscious to identify causes and change the negative thoughts and behaviours associated with the addiction. Using the power of suggestion, hypnotherapy works to alter the way you think and react to certain situations, like viewing gambling as a form of stress relief.

For hypnotherapy to be a success, you must want to make a change. Changing for someone else won’t have the same effect - you need to accept that you have a problem and want to make the change for yourself. While certain thoughts and behaviours can be altered through hypnosis, you must want to address the problem for hypnotherapy to be an effective treatment.

What to expect from a session

Focusing not only on the addiction, but any possible triggers, hypnotherapy for addiction aims to access your unconscious and alter the negative thought patterns and behaviours associated with the problem.

During the session, the hypnotherapist will typically ask you to think about any particular situations or experiences you believe may be a trigger for your addiction. For example, does the compulsion to gamble occur after an argument or stressful experience? You may also be asked to recall the moment when you first started gambling and why, and when you think it became a problem. Did anything happen during this time?

The methods used by the hypnotherapist will vary depending on you as an individual, your past experiences, the problem and your triggers. If your addiction is believed to be the result of past experience, for example, hypnosis can not only help you alter your thoughts and behaviours but help you cope as you go through recovery.

The duration of treatment will be completely up to you. Together with the hypnotherapist, you will discuss what you hope to gain from treatment, and how many sessions you think are suitable. Take your time and if at the end of your booked sessions, you or your hypnotherapist believe you may benefit from more, that’s OK. You may also be taught self-hypnosis techniques to practice at home, which can help you cope with potential triggers long after sessions have finished.

Like most addictions, whether it be gambling, drink, drugs or food, the addict craves their next ‘fix’. Hypnosis helps by destroying this craving, replacing it with a more positive, appropriate behaviour. The therapist may suggest the client takes up a new hobby or goes for a walk, anything to replace that point when they would begin this addictive behaviour.

- Biodun Ogunyemi, hypnotherapist.

Managing your addiction

Changing your behaviour is difficult, especially when the problem has become a big part of your life. Trying to break the habit will take determination and willpower, and a real want to stop. As with hypnotherapy, breaking a habit is incredibly hard to do successfully if your heart’s not in it.

But as well as seeking professional help, there are some steps you can take to manage your addiction and cope with any mental health or financial problems you may be experiencing. 

Limit the amount of money you spend gambling

  • If you are gambling, set a limit of how much you are willing to spend per week or month.
  • If going out to gamble, leave your debit cards at home, take cash only.
  • When using online websites, put a limit on your spending.
  • On payday, ensure you pay all priority tasks and bills first (mortgage, rent, food etc.).

Reduce the time you spend gambling

  • Set yourself a limit on how many times a week you will gamble, be specific and name the day and time allowance. Let others know so you are held accountable.
  • Try and avoid the ‘I’ll just have a quick game’ scenarios.

Don’t view gambling as a source of income

  • Remind yourself that it is for entertainment only.
  • Be prepared to lose and stop when you have scheduled to stop.
  • Do not spend your savings or investments on gambling.
  • Ask loved ones not to lend you money if you ask.

Spend time doing other activities

  • Instead of gambling, spend more time with family and friends.
  • Take up a new hobby or revisit one you previously enjoyed.
  • Join a social group or organise events with those who don’t gamble.
  • Talk to people about your worries.

If you’re worried about a loved one…

It’s difficult to know if someone has a problem with gambling. It’s not easy to detect, and often, people will try to hide their behaviour from loved ones. If they know it has become a problem, it’s likely they’ll feel ashamed or guilty, and so may get defensive if questioned.

If you’re worried about someone, there are ways you can help them, as well as helping yourself. Coping with a loved one who is suffering can be incredibly overwhelming, as much as you want to help them, you need to look after yourself too.

For support and advice, you can contact the National Gambling Helpline on freephone 0808 8020 133. For tips on how to talk to someone about their gambling, visit Be Gamble Aware.

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