If you are trying to stop online gambling, you are not alone. Over the last couple of years, there has been an explosion of online gambling. As shared in my article on online gambling addiction, this trend has accelerated riskier gambling since it’s constantly accessible from your phone or computer.
As a certified gambling counselor, I’ve helped many clients stop online gambling. Accessible 24/7, many people find themselves unable to focus on other things, constantly thinking about gambling and trying to win back losses. Craving time alone to gamble, it can affect your relationships, sleep, finances, and overall mental health.
In this article, I provide some practical ways to stop online gambling so you can regain control and start living the life you want. Here is a quick summary:
- Decide if online gambling is worth it
- Self-exclude from online betting sites
- Replace gambling with other activities
- Address the root causes of your gambling
- Seek the support of a gambling counselor
I’ve developed these strategies over several years of working within a casino doing problem gambling prevention, helping people who are struggling with their gambling, in addition to working within a hospital setting, providing residential support to persons recovering from problem gambling.
Although gambling functions like any other addiction, there are some important distinctions to consider. Hopefully, this article helps you make sense of the unique features of problem gambling, in addition to providing some valuable tools to help you gain back control.
Decide if online gambling is worth it
Deciding to stop gambling ultimately comes down to whether or not gambling is worth it. Even when it’s clearly not worth it monetarily, many people continue to gamble because it’s not about the money.
Here are some common reasons people continue gambling:
“Gambling makes me happier.”
Even if you know you are spending more money than you are getting back, you may justify continued gambling based on its ability to make all of the world’s problems go away temporarily. Using gambling to escape is one of the most common forms of gambling, especially among those who use games such as online slot machines.
Although many people in the early stages of problematic gambling may believe it makes them happier, this illusion is often shattered when their lives become unmanageable. Gambling offers a false promise of happiness, just like it offers the false illusion of control and false hope for a better future.
“I can make money gambling.”
I have heard this several times from persons who engage in professional forms of gambling where a significant amount of skill is involved. For example, tournament poker allows players to gain a slight mathematical edge on one another, making it a game of both skill and chance.
The first question I would ask is whether or not your gambling is actually profitable. Do you keep a balance sheet, closely tracking your wins and losses? Are you treating your gambling like a business? If so, and you are profitable, I would still even ask if it’s worth it.
Is this amount of money worth the roller-coaster of stress? Is it worth risking your closest relationships? Is it worth the constant lying, the loss of integrity, and the constant preoccupation?
What do you truly value in life? Is gambling getting you closer or further away from that?
“I’ll be bored if I stop gambling.”
Many people looking for gambling support can’t imagine their lives without it. By this point, gambling often becomes a full-time job. Spending so much time gambling, other hobbies and interests go by the wayside.
Although gambling may feel like the only form of leisure activity currently, I’ve seen many people adjust to an enjoyable life outside gambling. It may take some brainstorming at first, but given time, it is possible to rekindle old hobbies and find new fulfilling activities to engage in.
This fear of boredom is common in all addictions, so if you’re interested in learning more, check out my article 16 Reasons Being Sober Is Worth It. Many of the lessons apply to gambling as well.
Is it worth it?
Try bringing your attention to the actual experience of online gambling. Bring your attention to the work involved in it. Notice the effort required to incorporate it into your life. Perhaps you have to hide certain things, plan around it, or think about it constantly. When I talk to clients about this, I often find myself saying, “wow… that sounds stressful!”
Is this experience worth all of the work? Is it worth all of the damage? Without engaging in self-judgment, bring mindful attention to these aspects of the experience.
When deciding whether gambling is worth it, I highly recommend checking out Alan Carr’s book, The Easy Way to Stop Gambling.
After seeing the power of his approach, I often recommend the audiobook versions of his texts to my clients to listen to while driving or cleaning. His books have a way of making the addictive substance or behavior seem highly unappealing by the end of the book. If you are still gambling, this is a great book to start with.
Self-exclude from online betting sites
If you’ve decided you’ve had enough and need to stop. This is the next step.
This is an area unique to gambling addiction. Unlike bars and liquor stores, you can ban yourself from casinos and block yourself from gambling sites.
Although this does not entirely fix the issue, it makes it more difficult to access online gambling and therefore increases the odds of stopping.
There are two ways to block yourself from online gambling: 1) self-exclusion from individual gambling platforms, and 2) using blocking software. Ideally, you can use both as a way to maximize effectiveness.
Self-exclusion has a different process, depending on the online gambling platform. You can do this by looking around the account settings or searching Google for “how to self-exclude from x platform” (replace “x” with the name of your gambling site/ app). If this is not an option, simply deactivating your account is another route.
Once you’ve self-excluded/ deactivated your account, you can install an application that blocks gambling sites on your phone or computer.
Some people may want to go a step further and consider getting a non-smartphone or a phone without access to the internet. Since gambling is now accessible everywhere, merely having a smartphone can be a strong trigger in early recovery. If taking a break from your device is not feasible, the options listed above may also work.
Another way to make gambling less accessible is to consider your access to funds. Simply having easy access to extra money can be a significant gambling trigger. Therefore, it can be helpful to consider the following questions:
Are you able to open up to someone in your life who can take control of the finances right now? Can you cancel credit cards or limit withdrawals from your debit account? Can you talk to a financial planner and consolidate all of your debts into a single payment?
Addressing each of these areas allows you to limit your access to gambling so you can start focusing on things that matter in your life.
Replace gambling with other activities
Once you’ve decided to cut out gambling, it is essential to consider healthy replacements. Since gambling can take up a significant amount of one’s time, self-excluding and blocking it from your phone or computer can often result in boredom, fuelling the desire to return to gambling.
Blocking yourself from gambling is a short-term solution, requiring this next step to entrench long-term motivation and commitment to change.
Consider the types of things you would like to do if you didn’t have gambling in your life.
If something doesn’t immediately come to mind, consider things you once enjoyed but stopped doing when online gambling started to take over your spare time.
Some people incorporate hobbies they once enjoyed, spend time with people they haven’t seen in a while, start going for walks, or incorporate more exercise in their life. The key is that you find this replacement activity genuinely enjoyable.
What small thing would you start doing today or tomorrow?
What would look different in your daily life once you’ve stopped gambling?
Once you’ve started to see some progress in your financial situation, what would it allow you to do?
Address the root causes of your gambling
As stated earlier, when gambling becomes an addiction, it is often no longer about the money. Gambling is often used to escape from deeper issues such as stress, anxiety, boredom, or loneliness.
Due to the ease of access, online platforms make it easier to use gambling to cope with underlying issues such as anxiety and depression.
According to a survey by the Responsible Gambling Council (RGC), anxiety and depression are significant factors contributing to high-risk gambling. As shown below, persons with severe depression are almost five times more likely to engage in high-risk gambling.
Typical depression symptoms such as low mood, apathy, and social isolation are barriers to accessing in-person venues. With online gambling, persons with severe depression can maintain round-the-clock access to gambling while in the comfort of their own homes.
RGC’s survey found that gambling to cope with depressed moods was a significant risk factor for problematic gambling:
“…67.6% of those who gambled online because it helps when feeling nervous or depressed were high-risk gamblers. [They have] 7.4-times the risk of problematic gambling, relative to other gambling motives.”
Recovering from an addiction to online gambling requires long-term work on underlying issues.
For a summary of some common therapeutic ways to overcome these underlying issues, you can check out a section in another one of my articles on overcoming addiction here.
This is the most challenging aspect of recovery to tackle on one’s own and often requires the support of a professional counselor who can identify and address these underlying issues.
Seek the support of a gambling counselor
If you want to gain back control over your gambling, reaching out for support significantly increases your odds of success.
I often hear people say they’ve tried to reach out for help but don’t feel understood. Although general mental health and addiction professionals may be helpful, many people do not realize there are dedicated gambling counselors who specialize in this specific area.
As a Certified Gambling Counselor, I’ve worked in problem gambling since 2016, in the front lines, helping persons from the time of self-exclusion within the casino, to long-term residential treatment, and now as a private practitioner, helping clients across Canada and the US.
Reaching out for support can be difficult. Many people wonder, “will it work for me?” and “what if things never change?” In early recovery, there’s a lot of uncertainty. Luckily, long-term change is quite common, with the proper support. If you don’t know where to start, reach out for a free consultation, and I can help guide you through the process.
If you are starting to think gambling is no longer worth it, I am currently accepting new clients residing in Canada or the US.
Send me a message below to request a free 15 min consultation, or click here to learn more.
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