Around 43% of Brits have gambled in the last year, yet it’s estimated just 3% of problem gamblers get help. If you’re worried a habit may have turned into an addiction, it’s never too late to seek help. Here’s how you stop gambling for good
Who doesn’t like to think that they’re lucky? Whether it’s picking up a weekly lotto ticket, sneaking a quick scratch card at the checkouts, betting on a race, or using mobile casino apps, over two-fifths of Brits have gambled at least once, spending an average of £135 each year. Yet despite how widespread gambling has become, studies have shown less than 3% of problem gamblers receive treatment, leaving them open to financial difficulties, negatively impacting careers, relationships, and spiralling debts.
What’s more, rising worries about the cost of living have led to gamblers increasing their spending. Almost half (46%) of under-35s are gamblers, with 30% saying their habit has increased over the past year, with one in six spending over £75 each month on gambling and one in 12 spending over £100.
According to Public Health England, 0.5% of adults in the UK have a problem with gambling right now. A further 3.8% are at-risk, and 7% are being negatively affected by someone else’s gambling. But how do you know when gambling turns into something more problematic?
Am I addicted to gambling? Recognising gambling addiction
People gamble for a number of different reasons. Perhaps you like the opportunity to dream about what you’d do with your winnings; maybe it’s the rush of winning that keeps you coming back, the social aspects, or it’s become habit. Or maybe you find yourself placing an extra bet or two when you’re bored, or logging onto a casino app when you’re feeling worried, stressed, exhausted, and overwhelmed.
If you are betting more than you can afford to lose, are borrowing money to gamble, or feel more stressed and anxious when thinking about gambling, it can be a sign that you have a problem.
Compulsive gambling can happen when you experience uncontrollable urges to gamble. You may become obsessed with the feeling of placing large bets and ‘winning big’. Gambling can start to take over your thoughts, affecting your day-to-day life, changing your routine, affecting your work, and impacting your relationships. As explained by Counselling Directory, gambling addiction can lead to many feeling they need to hide their actions, out of fear and shame, rather than confronting their issues head-on.
If you’re worried that you (or someone you care about) may have a gambling problem, there are common signs of addiction you can look out for. These include:
- Missing work or education to spend time gambling.
- Losing interest in hobbies, activities, or socialising with friends and family.
- Withdrawing from or neglecting friendships, family or romantic relationships.
- Arguing about money or gambling.
- Lying or trying to hide gambling activities from others.
- Selling items, borrowing money from friends or family, using savings, going into debt, or stealing to fund gambling.
- Continuing to gamble even when out of money.
- Increasing how much money being placed on a single bet or betting in a riskier manner (to experience a bigger natural ‘high’)
- Ignoring the negative consequences of gambling (on relationships, at work, or on education)
- Spending more time gambling than you had planned, or feeling unable to stop at the limit you had set yourself.
- Feeling like all you can think about is gambling, constantly planning how/when you will next play, or how you will win back what you have lost.
- Thinking you have your gambling under control, or denial that you have a problem.
- Feeling anxious, nervous, on edge, or restless when not gambling, or when thinking about gambling.
- Being impatient, defensive, exhibiting poor judgement, having trouble concentrating or difficulty tracking time.
- Relying on gambling to relieve stress, boost your mood, ignore or cope with other feelings.
- Becoming angry, irritable, feeling guilty or ashamed when others ask about your gambling.
It’s important to remember that gambling can come in many forms. While some forms may be easier to spot than others, there are many hidden gambling mechanics in other forms of entertainment such as paid mobile apps and big video games that encourage spending real-life money on in-game currency, ‘lucky’ or ‘loot’ boxes, or other random-change generating game items. There has been growing concern that mobile gambling apps and sites, as well as video games could be exacerbating people’s addiction to gambling.
Do I have a gambling addiction?
Even when we recognise the signs of gambling addiction, it can be tempting to ignore them or try to downplay them. But the more that you ignore the signs, the more you risk problem gambling escalating to a point where it has a serious impact on your family, friends, and finances.
- Am I spending more time/money than I can afford?
- Can I really stop gambling at any time?
- Am I taking bigger risks?
- Am I often/always thinking about gambling?
- Do I feel anxious, angry, guilty, ashamed, or depressed after gambling?
- Has anyone (coworkers, boss, family, friends) said they are concerned about me or my behaviour?
If you’ve answered yes to a number of these, it may be time to seek help.
Helping a friend, partner, spouse, or family member with a gambling addiction can be tough. BeGambleAware shares practical advice and support to help you understand and help your loved one (while still looking after yourself).
How to stop gambling for good
1. Admit you have a problem
Admitting you have a problem is an important first step when it comes to facing any addiction. When someone refuses to admit that there's a problem, they may find ways to justify and continue behaviours that are actively harming them or others. By admitting you have a problem (to yourself, to a therapist, a help group, or someone you love) you are acknowledging that something needs to change. This can help to lay the foundations for an open, healthy mindset to tackle underlying issues that may be leading to gambling or other unhelpful behaviours.
2. Limit and/or block your access to gambling
There are a number of different tools you can use to limit how much time and money you can spend on many gambling apps. However, while some people find limits to be helpful, others find blocking their own access can be a more effective, long-term solution to help break compulsive gambling habits.
What is self-exclusion and how does it work?
If you’re looking to stop gambling for at least six months, self-exclusion could be the answer. It’s free to do and you can register in just a few minutes to do using GamStop. Once registered, you can no longer use gambling websites or apps run by companies licensed in Great Britain, for a set period of time that you choose (between six months to five years).
Is there a way to block all gambling sites?
Technically, yes. Gambling support charity GamCare recommends contacting your Internet Service Provider (ISP) to see if you can opt-out of all ‘adult’ sites. You may also be able to use some anti-virus software to block certain things such as gambling. There are also free and paid blocking software and filters which can work on your PC, Mac, Linux, Android phone or iOS.
Can I block gambling payments with my bank?
Many banks allow you to block your bank account or debit card through a gambling blocking service. This means that you can no longer use your account on gambling apps or websites. The Gambling Commission has an up-to-date list of banks which provide this service and how it works.
3. Identify your triggers and find healthier coping mechanisms
While our motivations for gambling can vary greatly, turning to gambling to deal with big emotions, stress, worry, and even boredom is more common than you might think. Identifying your triggers (what you are doing or how you are feeling when you feel the urge to gamble) can help you to recognise thoughts, feelings, and situations that may tempt you or lead to gambling.
As Counsellor Noel Bell recommends, planning ahead can be useful if you find boredom is a trigger. Rekindling old hobbies can help to replace time spend gambling, giving you something that is enjoyable, more fulfilling, and less risky to replace your addiction.
“Stress is the barometer of how we manage our emotions and can be a major contributing factor in relapse from gambling recovery,” Noel explains. “It is vital to find new, healthy ways to cope with stress, whether that is physical exercise, meditation, hypnotherapy or talking to a trusted friend.”
4. Talk with someone you trust
Opening up about problem gambling can feel like a huge step. You may be feeling ashamed or anxious about others finding out about your gambling, or worried about being judged. Speaking with someone you know and trust is often an important step toward not only admitting to yourself that you have a problem, but also showing that you are ready to reach out, ask for help and support, and make changes in your life.
Some people find it may be easier to speak with a loved one after they have a rough idea of what steps they plan to take next, or once they have already begun making changes and seeking help. Others may find support from family and friends to be helpful in figuring out the right path for them. Just be prepared; it’s common for loved ones to have questions, and they may express feelings of sadness, anger, disbelief, or relief. Be as open and honest as you can, and remember that they might need time to think about things.
5. Working with a professional
There are many different types of professional help, advice and guidance available. Some people may find working with a therapist or counsellor is the most effective path for them, while others may prefer to try hypnosis with a clinical hypnotherapist.
Hypnosis for gambling addiction: can hypnotherapy help?
Hypnotherapy for gambling addiction uses the power of suggestion to access your unconscious, changing negative thought patterns and behaviours. A qualified, experienced hypnotherapist can help introduce you to new, healthier coping mechanisms to replace old, unhelpful habits or behaviours.
Certified Master Hypnotherapist Biodun Ogunyemi explains more about how hypnotherapy can help you stop gambling. “Like most addictions, whether it be gambling, drink, drugs or food, [you] crave your next ‘fix’. Hypnotherapy for gambling helps by destroying this craving and replacing it with a more positive, appropriate behaviour. The hypnotherapist can give their client the tools and techniques to use whenever the urge to gamble appears. They may also teach some self-hypnosis.”
To find out more about hypnotherapy for problem gambling and speak with a qualified, experienced hypnotherapist online or in-person near you, visit Hypnotherapy Directory.
Therapy for gambling addiction
Working with a counsellor or a therapist can help you to better identify, understand, and change behaviours that may be triggering problem gambling, leaving you open to relapse, or otherwise negatively impacting your mental health and wellbeing.
Counselling is considered to be a particularly successful treatment for gambling addiction. Talking therapies like CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) can help you to better understand your addiction, as well as to learn new, healthier ways you can manage gambling urges. Through speaking with a qualified, experienced gambling addiction therapist, you can better understand the reasons behind your gambling. A therapist can help you to recognise your triggers and underlying causes of problem gambling, helping to introduce you to healthier, more sustainable ways of coping with issues such as boredom, stress, loneliness, anxiety, and more.
To find out more about therapy for gambling addictions and to speak with a qualified, experienced therapist online or in-person near you, visit Counselling Directory.
6. Join a support group or reach out to a gambling addiction charity
There are many support groups offering meetings across the country. Gamblers Anonymous holds meetings across England and Wales, online and in-person, to support those with a compulsive gambling problem. People share their experiences, strength and hope with each other, in order to offer support and help others solve shared problems.
Support groups offer a safe space to share, meet others with similar problems, and to create a support network which you can feel comfortable sharing with and relying on if you are struggling.
Reaching out to a gambling charity can help to give you more information about services available in your area, help you to access cheap or free face-to-face counselling, and highlight other free local support groups.
- GamCare offers free support, information, and counselling for problem gamblers across the UK. They also run the National Gambling Helpline, 24/7, which you can call on 0808 8020 133, as well as 24/7 Live Chat and WhatsApp support, forums, and group chat.
- National Problem Gambling Clinic is available for anyone aged 16 or over, with complex problems related to gambling, living in England or Wales. You can find out more and self-refer using the NHS website.
- Gordon Moody is the UK’s leading charity dedicated to providing support and treatment for gambling addiction.
- BetKnowMore is a UK charity helping people to take back control of their life from gambling.
7. Find online communities to help overcome gambling addiction
Online communities can provide a safe, anonymous space to connect with other people who have or are currently experiencing similar problems to you. Joining these communities can help to create a sense of connection, to ease feelings of loneliness and guilt, and to remind you that you aren’t alone.
There are many different dedicated Facebook Groups run by users, offering help and support for problem gambling and gambling addiction. Reddit offers dedicated subreddits to support with gambling addiction (r/gamblingaddiction) and problem gambling (r/problemgambling).
8. Self-help tips for problem gamblers
The NHS and the Royal College of Psychiatrists both have a number of self-help tips for those experiencing gambling problems. Offering practical advice to help you deal with immediate financial issues as well as your wellbeing, these can offer guidance to help you make changes while figuring out what pathway you want to take to tackle your gambling addiction.
It’s never too late to make changes and seek help for problem gambling. Without help and support, the urge to gamble may come and go (you may experience periods of remission), but often returns.
Help is available for everyone. Therapy, hypnotherapy, support groups, group therapy, charities, online communities, and more: there is an option available for every situation. You just need to take that first step and admit that you need help.