How to Stop Online Gambling

Written by Steve Rose

Steve Rose, PhD, is an addiction counsellor and former academic researcher, committed to conveying complex topics in simple language.

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As a certified gambling counselor, I’ve witnessed firsthand the rapid rise of online gambling and its impact on individuals and families. The convenience and accessibility of gambling in the digital age has made it increasingly challenging for those struggling with gambling to find a way out.

This guide is designed to offer practical steps and resources to stop online gambling and reclaim control over your life. Overcoming this challenge requires more than just willpower; it requires a comprehensive approach.

To stop online gambling, use self-exclusion, content blockers like Gamban, and limit access to funds. Seek support from family, friends, or GA. Replace gambling with healthy activities, address underlying issues with professional help, manage triggers, avoid rationalizations, and never bend the rules.

Whether you’re battling this alone or seeking help for a loved one, this guide is your starting point towards recovery from online gambling.

Self-Exclude From Gambling Platforms

Making Access More Difficult, Not Relying on Willpower Alone

One of the most effective first steps in the journey to stop online gambling is to make access to gambling sites and apps more difficult. This is where self-exclusion programs come into play. These programs are designed to help individuals struggling with gambling to voluntarily ban themselves from accessing gambling sites and apps for a set period of time or even permanently.

Relying solely on willpower to stop gambling can often lead to frustration and relapse. Gambling addiction, like other forms of addiction, can overpower even the strongest willpower due to its deep psychological roots and the instant gratification it provides. Recognizing this limitation is crucial in seeking external measures like self-exclusion to create physical and psychological barriers against the temptation to gamble.

Self-Exclusion Programs and How They Work

Self-exclusion programs are initiatives offered by gambling sites, apps, and even regulatory bodies that allow individuals to request to be banned from accessing gambling facilities. Once an individual signs up for a self-exclusion program, the platforms or regulatory bodies enforce the ban, making it significantly harder for the individual to gamble online. This ban includes blocking access to existing accounts and prohibiting the creation of new accounts.

Steps to Self-Exclude from Gambling Websites and Apps

  1. Identify the Platforms: Make a list of all the gambling websites and apps you use or have access to.
  2. Search for Self-Exclusion Options: Visit each site or app’s responsible gambling section to find information on how to self-exclude. If you can’t find the information easily, contact their customer support.
  3. Use National Registries: Some countries have national self-exclusion systems that can block you from accessing multiple gambling sites and apps with a single request. Search online to see if such a system exists in your country or state.
  4. Fill Out the Necessary Forms: Complete any forms required to initiate the self-exclusion. This may include providing personal details and specifying the duration of the exclusion.
  5. Consider Third-Party Tools: For additional support, consider using third-party apps like Gamban, which can block access to gambling sites across your devices.
  6. Repeat as Needed: As new gambling sites and apps emerge, be prepared to update your self-exclusion measures regularly.

Self-exclusion is a powerful step in breaking the cycle of online gambling, but it’s most effective when combined with other strategies such as limiting access to funds, seeking social support, and addressing underlying issues contributing to the gambling behavior. I will discuss these strategies in later sections.

Use Content Blockers

Content blockers play a crucial role in the battle against online gambling by providing an additional layer of defense for individuals seeking to curb their gambling habits. These tools can effectively reduce the temptation and accessibility of online gambling sites and apps, making it easier to focus on recovery.

Overview of Content Blocking Technology Like Gamban

Gamban is a leading content blocking technology specifically designed to help individuals block access to thousands of gambling websites and apps on their devices. Once installed, Gamban prevents the user from accessing both desktop and mobile gambling platforms, ranging from online casinos to sports betting sites. This software is user-friendly and can be installed on multiple devices, ensuring comprehensive coverage across all potential access points for online gambling.

How to Work with Your Internet Service Provider to Block Gambling-Related Content

Many Internet service providers (ISPs) offer services or features that allow you to block access to specific types of content, including gambling-related sites. Here’s how you can engage your ISP in your efforts to block such content:

  1. Contact Your ISP: Reach out to your ISP’s customer service to inquire about content filtering options. Be specific about your need to block gambling sites.
  2. Explore Available Options: ISPs may offer parental controls, security suites, or network-level blocking tools that can be customized to restrict access to gambling content.
  3. Implement ISP Recommendations: Follow your ISP’s guidance to set up the necessary filters or blocks. This may involve accessing your account settings online or modifying your home network’s router settings.
  4. Regular Updates: Keep your ISP’s content filtering features updated, and check in periodically to ensure that new gambling sites are being effectively blocked.

Consider Using a Non-Smartphone

For those who find the temptation to gamble online too great and content blockers insufficient, reverting to a non-smartphone can significantly reduce access to online gambling sites. Non-smartphones, or “feature phones,” offer basic telephone and SMS capabilities without the advanced features and apps found on smartphones, thus eliminating easy access to internet-based gambling:

  • Simplicity: Non-smartphones provide a straightforward way to stay connected without the distractions and temptations of the internet.
  • Limited Internet Access: While some non-smartphones have basic internet capabilities, the experience is vastly limited compared to smartphones, making online gambling impractical.
  • Psychological Barrier: The physical act of switching to a non-smartphone can serve as a strong psychological commitment to quitting gambling, reinforcing the individual’s determination to recover.

Implementing content blockers like Gamban, collaborating with your ISP to filter out gambling content, and considering the use of a non-smartphone are effective strategies to create a safer environment for individuals determined to overcome online gambling. These tools and changes can significantly aid in breaking the cycle of gambling addiction by removing temptations and making it more challenging to relapse.

Limit Access to Funds

Managing and limiting access to funds is a critical step for individuals trying to stop online gambling. Financial control measures can significantly reduce the ability to gamble and thus help break the cycle of addiction. Here are some effective strategies:

Having Someone Else Take Over Finances

Entrusting a trusted family member or friend with control over your finances can provide a necessary barrier to gambling. This step involves giving them access to your bank accounts, credit cards, and any other financial resources. It’s a form of accountability, ensuring that spending is monitored and restricted to essential needs.

Importance of Removing Saved Online Payment Methods like PayPal

Online gambling sites make it easy to deposit funds through saved payment methods, creating a minimal barrier to gamble. Removing these saved payment methods from your accounts can add a layer of inconvenience that might deter impulsive gambling decisions. Ensure that all online gambling sites, apps, and even e-commerce sites do not have your credit card, PayPal, or other online payment methods saved.

Closing Secret Bank Accounts and Being Transparent About Debts

Transparency is key to recovery from gambling addiction. This means closing any secret bank accounts used primarily for gambling and being open about your debts. Consolidating your financial information and sharing it with a trusted person can help create a more structured and accountable approach to managing finances.

Setting Up Financial Safeguards with Banks and Credit Card Companies

Many banks and credit card companies offer services to help customers restrict their spending, including the ability to block transactions to gambling sites. Contact your bank and credit card issuers to inquire about setting up such safeguards. These could include lowering your daily spending limits or implementing blocks on transactions categorized under gambling.

Credit Counseling to Consolidate Debts and Setting Up Auto-Payments

Credit counseling services can offer invaluable assistance in managing and consolidating debts accrued from gambling. These services can negotiate lower interest rates on your behalf and help set up a debt management plan. Consolidating your debts into one monthly payment can simplify your finances and make it easier to manage.

Additionally, setting up auto-payments for recurring bills and debt payments ensures that your financial obligations are met on time, reducing the stress of manual management and the temptation to redirect funds towards gambling.

Implementing these financial control measures can significantly aid individuals in their recovery journey by reducing the risk of relapse and providing a structured path towards financial stability.

Manage Gambling Triggers

One of the most critical aspects of recovery from gambling addiction is learning to manage triggers. Triggers can be people, places, or things that evoke the urge to gamble. Recognizing and understanding these triggers can significantly reduce the risk of relapse. Managing these effectively involves both avoiding triggers and developing healthier responses.

People, Places, and Things Associated with Gambling

People: Sometimes, certain individuals in your life may have been your gambling companions or encouraged your gambling behaviors. It’s important to set boundaries with these individuals or limit contact while you’re in recovery. If close friends engage in discussions about gambling, consider telling them about your situation and how you are no longer gambling.

Places: Casinos, racetracks, or even certain restaurants and bars where gambling is prevalent can trigger the urge to gamble. Finding alternative places for leisure and socializing, away from these environments, is key.

Things: Objects or situations, like receiving a paycheck, having free time, or even feeling certain emotions, can act as triggers. Recognizing these associations and developing new, healthy routines can help mitigate their impact.

Stop Getting Emails, Ads, and Recommended Gambling Content

Unsubscribe and Block Emails: Actively unsubscribe from any gambling-related mailing lists. If emails continue to come through, use your email’s blocking feature to prevent them from reaching your inbox.

Adjust Ad Preferences: Platforms like Instagram, Facebook, and Google allow you to customize your ad preferences. Go into your account settings and remove gambling or any related categories from your interests. You can also select “hide ad” options when gambling content appears, informing the algorithm of your disinterest.

Use Content Blockers: Installing content blockers on your browsers and smartphones can prevent gambling ads and content from appearing. Apps like Gamban are designed to block gambling content across your devices.

Limit Social Media Use: If social media platforms continue to be a source of gambling triggers despite adjusting your settings, consider taking a break from these sites. This can help reduce exposure to triggers while you focus on your recovery.

Report Gambling Content: When you encounter gambling content, use the report feature to flag it as inappropriate or unwanted. This action can help platforms adjust what content is shown to you.

Click on Non-gambling Content: Clicking on a lot of content that is not related to gambling can influence the algorithm to suggest other types of content.

Clear Browser Cookies: By clearing the cookies stored in one’s browser, it makes it more difficult for gambling sites to identify your previous interest in gambling-related content.

Managing triggers is an ongoing process in the recovery journey. It requires vigilance and a willingness to adjust your environment and habits. By taking proactive steps to minimize exposure to gambling triggers and developing healthy coping mechanisms, you’re building a strong foundation for a gambling-free life.

Build a Support Network

Honesty, Accountability, and Social Support (Family, Friends, GA)

In your journey away from online gambling, one of the bravest steps you can take is to embrace honesty. Admitting you have a gambling problem isn’t easy. It requires facing the shame and guilt head-on, emotions that gambling often compounds in secrecy. But remember, addiction thrives in isolation, while recovery blossoms in connection. Opening up about your struggles is the first step toward building a supportive network that can carry you through to recovery.

The Role of Honesty in Admitting a Gambling Problem

Honesty with yourself and others marks the pivotal turning point in your journey. It’s about acknowledging the grip that gambling has had on your life and recognizing the need for change. This step is daunting; it’s natural to fear judgment or disappointment from those you love. Yet, this honesty is what paves the way for genuine support and understanding from those who truly want to see you heal.

How Accountability to Family, Friends, and Groups Like Gamblers Anonymous Can Aid in Recovery

Creating a circle of accountability with your family, friends, and support groups like Gamblers Anonymous can significantly enhance your recovery process. When you share your struggles, you’re not just seeking sympathy; you’re enlisting a team of personal allies in your fight against gambling. These are the people who will check in on you, offer a listening ear, and remind you of your strengths and progress when the path seems daunting.

Accountability partners can also provide the practical support you need, whether it’s accompanying you to meetings, helping you manage your finances, or just being there for you during low moments. Their involvement keeps you grounded in the reality of your recovery and diminishes the lure of gambling’s false promises.

Opening Up: What to Say

Finding the right words to express your struggles can feel overwhelming. Here are some practical phrases to help you break the silence:

  • “I’m going through something difficult and I realize I need help.”
  • “I’ve been struggling with gambling more than I’ve let on, and I’m ready to make a change.”
  • “Can we talk? I’ve got a problem with gambling and I could really use your support.”
  • “I feel ashamed about this, but I’m dealing with a gambling issue and I don’t want to face it alone anymore.”

Remember, the people who care about you are likely to respond with compassion and a willingness to help. Their support can be a powerful force in your recovery, offering you the strength to overcome obstacles and rebuild your life free from gambling.

In confronting your gambling problem with honesty and seeking accountability, you break the cycle of secrecy and isolation that fuels addiction. Each step taken with the support of loved ones or a group like Gamblers Anonymous reinforces your path to recovery, reminding you that you’re not alone and that healing is truly a collective journey.

Find an Activity to Replace Gambling

The Importance of Engaging in Physical or Hobbyist Activities

When you’re on the path to recovery from online gambling, finding replacement activities can play a pivotal role in your success. Engaging in physical or hobbyist activities not only fills the time you might have spent gambling but also provides substantial psychological benefits. These activities can offer a sense of achievement, increase your self-esteem, and reduce the stress and anxiety that often accompany gambling addiction.

The Psychological Benefits of Finding a Replacement Activity

Replacement activities, particularly those that involve physical exertion or require concentration and skill development, can be incredibly therapeutic. Physical activities like going to the gym, running, or even yoga, release endorphins, your body’s natural mood lifters. They can help combat depression and anxiety, common co-occurring conditions with gambling addiction. Hobbyist activities, whether they’re creative arts, learning a new skill, or engaging in community service, can provide a profound sense of purpose and fulfillment, something gambling falsely promises but never truly delivers.

How New Activities Can Help Redirect Focus and Energy Away from Gambling

Diving into new activities isn’t just about keeping busy; it’s about redirecting your focus and energy toward something positive and constructive. When you’re absorbed in a challenging workout or deeply involved in a new hobby, your mind is engaged in a healthy way, leaving less room for thoughts of gambling. This shift not only helps break the cycle of gambling addiction but also contributes to building a new, more fulfilling lifestyle.

Examples of Replacement Activities and How to Get Started

Getting started with new activities may feel daunting at first, especially if gambling has consumed much of your time and thought. Here are some suggestions to ease into this transition:

  • Join a Gym or Fitness Class: Physical activity is not only good for your body but also for your mental health. Look for activities you enjoy, such as swimming, cycling, or group fitness classes, to make exercise a fun and regular part of your routine.
  • Explore Creative Arts: Painting, writing, music, or any form of creative expression can be incredibly therapeutic and fulfilling. Local community centers often offer classes that can introduce you to these activities.
  • Learn Something New: Always wanted to learn a new language, cook gourmet meals, or build your own computer? Now’s the time! Online platforms offer countless courses on virtually any subject.
  • Volunteer: Giving back to your community can provide a profound sense of purpose and connection. Choose a cause you’re passionate about and look for volunteering opportunities nearby.

Starting with small, achievable goals in these activities can help build your confidence and commitment. Over time, as these new hobbies and practices become integral to your life, you’ll find the lure of gambling diminishes, replaced by the genuine satisfaction and joy derived from your new pursuits.

Notice Common Rationalizations for Gambling

In the journey to overcome gambling addiction, one of the trickiest obstacles can be your own mind—specifically, the rationalizations that justify gambling behavior. Recognizing these rationalizations is crucial because they can subtly undermine your recovery efforts, making it seem acceptable to gamble “just this once” or under certain conditions. Here are some common rationalizations and how to counter them:

“Just This One Time”

The “just this one time” rationalization is a classic example of minimizing the impact of what could potentially be a significant setback in your recovery journey. It suggests a false sense of control over a behavior that, by its nature, tends to spiral out of control once initiated.

Counter it by: Reminding yourself of the progress you’ve made so far and how a single instance of gambling can undo much of that hard work. Reflect on past experiences where “just this one time” led to more extensive gambling sessions.

“I Can Control It Now”

After some time away from gambling, you might convince yourself that you’ve gained enough control to gamble responsibly. However, this overlooks the nature of gambling addiction, which can quickly reassert itself.

Counter it by: Acknowledging the power of the addiction and the importance of maintaining a zero-tolerance approach to gambling. Consider the times in the past when attempts to control gambling failed and led to negative consequences.

“I Can Afford to Lose a Little”

This rationalization downplays the risks of gambling, ignoring the potential for loss to escalate.

Counter it by: Reminding yourself of your financial goals and the true cost of gambling, which isn’t just monetary but also emotional and relational.

“I Need to Win Back What I’ve Lost”

Chasing losses is a dangerous cycle that often leads to more significant losses.

Counter it by: Accepting past losses as gone and focusing on building a positive future without gambling.

“I’m Just Gambling for Fun”

While it might start as fun, for someone with a gambling problem, it can quickly become an unhealthy obsession.

Counter it by: Finding genuinely enjoyable and fulfilling activities that don’t carry the risk of addiction.

“I’ve Been Good, So I Deserve to Gamble”

Treating gambling as a reward can reinforce the behavior you’re trying to stop.

Counter it by: Rewarding yourself with non-gambling related activities that support your recovery and well-being.

“I Only Gamble on Special Occasions”

This can set a precedent that makes it harder to resist gambling at other times.

Counter it by: Celebrating occasions in healthier ways that don’t involve gambling.

“I Have a System That Works”

Believing you’ve found a foolproof system to win at gambling is a form of denial about the randomness and risks involved.

Counter it by: Reminding yourself of the unpredictability of gambling outcomes and the statistical improbability of coming out ahead in the long run.

Strengthening Your Response to Rationalizations

Recognizing these rationalizations is an essential skill in maintaining your recovery. Whenever you find yourself justifying potential gambling actions, pause and reflect on the underlying thoughts and feelings. Are you feeling stressed, lonely, or bored? Identifying the real triggers allows you to address them directly without resorting to gambling.

Engage in open discussions about these rationalizations with your support network or a counselor. Talking through these thoughts can help demystify them and reduce their power. Remember, recovery is a journey with its ups and downs. Learning to recognize and counter these common rationalizations strengthens your resolve and helps ensure that your path forward leads away from gambling and toward a healthier, more fulfilling life.

Never Bend the Rules in Recovery

In the journey of recovery from gambling addiction, setting strict rules for oneself is a cornerstone of success. Which substances or behavior is off limits? Which people, places, or things are you unwilling to associate with?

These rules are not just guidelines; they are vital defenses against the triggers and rationalizations that can lead to relapse. The importance of adhering to these rules, without exception, cannot be overstated.

Here’s why never bending your recovery rules is crucial:

Maintaining Integrity and Trust

Your rules are a commitment to yourself and to those supporting you through recovery. Breaking them, even once, can erode the trust you’ve built—both in yourself and from others. Maintaining unwavering adherence to your rules reinforces your integrity and the trust others have in your commitment to recovery.

The Slippery Slope of Exception Making

Allowing for exceptions, even seemingly minor ones, opens the door to justification and rationalization. What starts as a “just this once” exception can quickly snowball into regular occurrences, undermining the entire foundation of your recovery. The gambling addiction brain is adept at seizing such lapses, turning them into opportunities for relapse.

Strength Through Discipline

Discipline in recovery is not about punishment; it’s about empowerment. Each day you adhere to your rules, you strengthen your resolve and your ability to resist temptation. This discipline extends beyond gambling, enhancing your self-control and decision-making in all areas of life. It’s a testament to your commitment to a healthier future.

Psychological Stability

Rules provide a sense of predictability and structure, which can be incredibly stabilizing during the often turbulent times of recovery. Knowing clearly what is and isn’t allowed eliminates ambiguity that can lead to anxiety and stress—common triggers for gambling. This stability is crucial for maintaining mental and emotional health.

Celebrating Authentic Success

Every moment of adherence to your rules is a victory in recovery. These victories accumulate, building a genuine sense of achievement and self-worth. When you know that your progress is the result of steadfast commitment to your rules, the success is all the more rewarding.

How to Uphold Your Recovery Rules

  • Write them down: Having a physical or digital reminder of your rules can reinforce their importance.
  • Share them: Letting your support network know about your rules can help hold you accountable.
  • Plan for challenges: Anticipate situations where it might be tempting to bend your rules and plan your response.
  • Celebrate adherence: Acknowledge and reward yourself for sticking to your rules, reinforcing positive behavior.

Adhering strictly to your recovery rules is a powerful statement of your commitment to overcoming gambling addiction. It’s a recognition that recovery is not just about avoiding gambling but about building a new way of living that honors your well-being and values. Your rules are the framework within which this new life can grow and thrive, so holding them in high regard is essential for lasting recovery.

Heal Underlying Issues

Addressing and healing the underlying issues that contribute to gambling addiction is crucial for lasting recovery. Understanding the motivations behind your gambling behavior—whether it’s action-based thrill-seeking or escape-oriented avoidance—can reveal deep-seated emotional and psychological issues that need to be addressed.

Action Versus Escape Gambling

Gambling behaviors often fall into two categories: action gambling and escape gambling. Action gamblers are drawn to the thrill of the gamble, often seeking the high from taking risks. On the other hand, escape gamblers use gambling as a means to flee from unpleasant feelings or situations, seeking solace in the distraction it provides. Recognizing which category resonates with your experience can guide the therapeutic approach and healing process.

Exploring the Root Causes of One’s Gambling Addiction

Digging into the root causes of your gambling addiction requires honest self-reflection and often professional guidance. It involves exploring past traumas, current stressors, and unmet emotional needs that may be fueling your gambling behaviors. This exploration can be challenging, as it may unearth painful memories or feelings, but it’s a vital step towards recovery.

Techniques and Therapies to Heal Underlying Issues That Contribute to Gambling Habits

A variety of therapeutic techniques and modalities can be effective in addressing the underlying causes of gambling addiction:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): Helps identify and change unhelpful thought patterns that lead to stress, anxiety, depressed moods, or shame.
  • Trauma therapy: Offers a space to explore emotional experiences and traumas that contribute to addiction.
  • Mindfulness and Stress Reduction Techniques: Aids in managing the stress and emotions that might trigger gambling urges.
  • Group Therapy: Provides support and perspective from others who are facing similar challenges.

These therapies can be tailored to your individual needs, addressing both the psychological aspects of addiction and the practical steps towards recovery.

Importance of Professional Help in Understanding and Addressing the Root Causes of Gambling

Seeking professional help from a therapist or counselor who specializes in gambling addiction is crucial. These professionals can provide the insights and tools needed to understand and overcome the complex web of factors contributing to your gambling behavior. They can help you navigate your emotions, develop healthier coping mechanisms, and build a solid foundation for recovery.

Professional help also ensures that the process of uncovering and healing from the underlying issues is conducted in a safe, structured, and supportive environment. It’s a journey that requires patience and commitment, but with the right support, healing from gambling addiction and its root causes is entirely possible. Reaching out for help is the first step towards reclaiming your life and finding lasting fulfillment beyond gambling.

If you’ve recognized yourself in any part of this journey, know that reaching out for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. You don’t have to navigate the path to recovery from online gambling alone. I’m here to offer you the support, guidance, and understanding you need to overcome this challenge. Whether you’re taking the first steps towards recovery or seeking ways to manage underlying issues contributing to your gambling habits, I’m here to help.

Together, we can explore your experiences, understand the motivations behind your gambling, and develop a personalized plan to guide you towards a healthier, gambling-free life.

If you have questions, you can reach out to me here, or schedule a free virtual consultation here.

Fascinated by ideas? Check out my podcast:

Struggling with an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, it can be difficult to stop. Gaining short-term relief, at a long-term cost, you may start to wonder if it’s even worth it anymore. If you’re looking to make some changes, feel free to reach out. I offer individual addiction counselling to clients in the US and Canada. If you’re interested in learning more, you can send me a message here.

Other Mental Health Resources

If you are struggling with other mental health issues or are looking for a specialist near you, use the Psychology Today therapist directory here to find a practitioner who specializes in your area of concern.

If you require a lower-cost option, you can check out BetterHelp.com. It is one of the most flexible forms of online counseling. Their main benefit is lower costs, high accessibility through their mobile app, and the ability to switch counselors quickly and easily, until you find the right fit.

*As an affiliate partner with Better Help, I receive a referral fee if you purchase products or services through the links provided.

As always, it is important to be critical when seeking help, since the quality of counselors are not consistent. If you are not feeling supported, it may be helpful to seek out another practitioner. I wrote an article on things to consider here.


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1 Comment

  1. AF

    Thank You Steve

    Reply

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