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Poker, roulette, or even lotto: who has never tried their luck at gambling to pocket the jackpot? For some people, the sensations caused by the game go beyond entertainment and turn into an addiction.
Like alcohol, pathological gambling triggers excitement and intoxication that is difficult to get rid of. You play too much, you can't stop and you don't know what to do? Here are 10 steps you can take to end your gambling addiction.
What is gambling addiction?
Gambling addiction is behavioral: there is no psychoactive substance that acts. It is a practice of the game which wants to be repetitive and unsuitable, causing significant suffering and upheavals in the quality of life and daily life: the usual activities, but also family and professionals are impacted.
The simple pleasure of playing no longer exists and becomes an excessive need, taking up all the space in life. The player can no longer stop freely, his attitude is compulsive: the game has turned into a drug. We speak of pathological gambling or ludomania to characterize gambling addiction.
The compulsive gambler risks a bet of a certain value in order to win even more: casino, online games, lottery, scratch tickets, sports betting, cards, horse racing… Each player has one or more preferences.
A recognized pathology, its causes are multifactorial: as with all addictions, some people are more vulnerable than others.
What are the steps to get rid of gambling addiction?
Pathological gambling is not just a passing fancy. When the addiction is installed, it is the whole of your cerebral and emotional system which is impacted. Ending it takes time and kindness to yourself.
To get out of gambling addiction there are 9 steps to follow:
- Recognize your symptoms
- Analyze your behaviors
- Learn to control yourself in the face of triggers
- Admit the consequences
- Talk to a trusted third party about your gambling addiction
- mourn the money
- Runaway from risky situations
- Accept your illusion of control over chance
- Remind yourself that to gamble is to lose
- Start a therapeutic follow-up
Step 1: recognize your symptoms
Gambling addiction is based on very specific manifestations to be diagnosed.
If you want to end your addiction, you have probably already seen some signs of it:
- You gamble constantly increasing sums of money in order to reach a state of excitement close to the desired effect;
- Regulating your practice or trying to quit irritates you greatly, makes you restless;
- Besides, you are unable to reduce or stop in the long term, your efforts are failing
- Gambling preoccupies you enormously: you think about your past successes, you plan your next moves, you find out how to get money;
- You bet frequently when you are in pain or when you feel unwell;
- When you lose, you systematically return to play to “rebuild” yourself;
- You lie, to those around you, to yourself, to hide the extent of your trouble and its consequences;
- You have lost friendships, loved ones, or even your job (or your studies are in danger), and your family is put aside;
- Sometimes you go to others for money to get out of debt.
A pathological gambler must present four of these symptoms in the last twelve months.
The disorder is considered severe when eight to nine criteria are met. Recognizing the signs of gambling that impact your brain will help you on your way to recovery from gambling addiction.
Step 2: Analyze your behaviors
The first step in ending your gambling addiction is awareness, which is an analysis of your behavior. This step is done before you begin withdrawal.
You need to take stock of your gaming habits: How do you play? To what? With who? For what reasons? In which places? The objective here is to take a step back from your behavior in order to analyze it.
Reflecting on your routines and questioning your practices will help you find the triggers: thoughts, emotions, sensations, behaviors, situations… The possibilities are wide, which is why it is essential to analyze them.
For this purpose, something to write is always useful (a notebook is enough), because you can come back to it freely at any time.
To start, whenever you feel like playing, stop and examine what is going on inside you, without judgment: how do you feel? What do you think? Note this information. Then try to understand what caused this urge.
It can be emotions like joy or sadness. Boredom is also part of the situations that push to play, to relieve a lack of excitement.
Addicted individuals often possess impulsive traits, which do little to temper their compulsion. Sometimes, the activating element is a place: in case of addiction to sports betting or scratch card games, passing in front of a bar or a café risks awakening in you the desire to bet.
Finally, a person can be involved, or even a substance. Indeed, cigarettes and alcohol are strongly associated with gambling and by consuming them you certainly encourage your desire to bet.
Step 3: learn to control yourself in the face of triggers
The second step is to think about what actions to take to resist the triggers that cause you to gamble.
By circumventing them: for example, in the event of addiction to the casino, you will avoid going past your favorite casino.
By replacing them: if you play out of boredom, couldn't another activity such as sport satisfy you? Be careful, however, it is not a question of falling into a new addiction without substance! By facing them: facing the emotions you are trying to escape is the best way to understand your needs.
But in case of poor management of his effects, therapeutic support is necessary.
Step 4: Admit the consequences
This third step can be painful, unfortunately, it is necessary. As an excessive gambler, you probably suffer the consequences, because the risks are many.
Indeed, this addiction to games poses concerns on several levels:
- Financially: debts, credits, delays…;
- With justice (prohibition of gambling, access to illegal sites, the default of payment, etc.);
- Difficulties and disputes with those around you, family, friends: the social cost is high;
- Problems at work, at school, in studies;
- On your health: substance abuse, anxiety, poor sleep...
To move forward on the path to recovery properly, it is important to take stock of the impact of your illness, both on you, but also on those around you. Take the time to make a list of all the issues you faced with the game (even if you have already solved the problem).
Also note the people you have hurt, or to whom you owe money. This is a difficult step, however, it will allow you to take the necessary step back to realize the impact of your addiction.
This list can later serve as a guide and reminder in times of weakness.
Step 5: Tell a trusted third party about your gambling addiction
As with quitting smoking cannabis or cutting down on alcohol, it's important that you can confide in someone about your addiction.
Above all, do not stay alone! Feeling encouraged in your journey is necessary in order to share your experience without fear of judgment: the benevolence of those around you is essential.
When you are ready, share your problem with your family and verbalize your request for support, while acknowledging the difficulties that this may have caused between you.
Ludomania is one of the addictions that isolate people, but stopping the practice nevertheless requires close support, the benefits of which act on maintaining motivation.
If you still feel misunderstood or can't talk about your disorder, consider speaking groups. Whether in face-to-face meetings or over the phone, these people will take the time for you, with all the necessary empathy.
Discussing with people who are going through (or have been through) the same situation will allow you to realize that you are not alone and that healing is possible.
Step 6: mourn the money
The money played is lost. He won't come back. If you keep playing, be honest with yourself. Don't lie to yourself about how much you bet and how much you lose. Be honest with loved ones who know about your situation.
You must accept that chance cannot be controlled. You have no power over it. On the other hand, you can control now what you decide to do with the money: only you hold your own winning ticket.
Keeping a record is essential. If you continue to play, you will enter the money spent and lost there. At the end of each week, write down what you could have afforded instead or what debts you could have cleared.
If you don't play anymore, write down all the same, each day that passes without betting, the money set aside. It's up to you to build a kitty, to use it to repay your loans or reward yourself. Why not invest this money for yourself: training project, moments of well-being, travel?
Finally, remember that your bets will always be greater than your winnings. In any case, to reduce your risk-taking, think logically:
If I gamble, the consequences will be that I will lose money. I have already lost so much money so far. This sum will increase if I bet.
Step 7: Run away from risky situations
In general, to reduce or get out of pathological gambling, you must avoid all tempting situations: café atmosphere, looping music from slot machines, the smell of rooms, the texture of tokens, the noise of coins...
With the game, a kind of ritual is set up, and all these environmental elements are associated with your desire to play and participate strongly in it. If you are surrounded by your drug, it will be hard to resist.
Say no to your gambling circle: For people who want to go out to the casino, explain why you're refusing and suggest another activity.
Avoid passing in front of places offering lotteries and games of chance. If you suffer from an addiction to online games, you may be prohibited from accessing certain sites on your computer or phone.
Addiction, whether substance or behavioral, causes a state in the brain called craving. This is what generates the irrepressible and imperious need to play in the case of ludomania.
A person addicted to gambling cannot gamble responsibly for this reason. It is his brain that commands and he seeks only to be satisfied.
The craving phenomenon is also present if you decide to start alcohol withdrawal.
Step 8: accept your illusion of control over chance
Between hope of winning and fear of failure, there are several mechanical thoughts in the heads of bettors that promote their behavior and encourage them to play. Addiction occupies so much psychic space that it is not always easy to maintain objectivity.
But becoming aware of these beliefs will help you take a step back from your behaviors.
The illusion of control is common: you imagine that you have power over games of chance and that you control the future outcome of a game. But none of this is true.
Every race, every ticket, every roll of the dice does not depend on you, but on a random process.
This mechanic manifests itself differently depending on the player: We will talk about:
- Cognitive control if you say, for example, a prayer before playing;
- Behavioral control which involves, for example, blowing on the dice before throwing them or even wanting to shuffle the cards yourself;
- Talisman which is also an expression of control: mandatory lucky charm in the pocket or gri-gri to caress before scratching;
Other forms of control are possible, such as taking into account the numbers already drawn in roulette, for example.
Step 9: Remind yourself that to gamble is to lose
It is important to remind yourself that in the absence of discipline you will almost certainly lose your money, regardless of your betting strategy. This is the fundamental fact of problem gambling.
Your gambling urges might appear as seductive temptations when you are undergoing financial worries, especially as most forms of gambling offer the potential of immediate high reward. Reminding yourself that you can’t stop once you start can help you to deal with any urges to gamble.
Step 10: start a therapeutic follow-up
This last step is essential to guarantee the end of your addiction to gambling.
You have already done a lot of the work, but to quit permanently, medical attention is often necessary. You can first contact your attending physician: he will be able to guide you.
The treatment of pathological gambling addiction includes follow-up with an addictologist whose specialty it is.
Therapeutic support can be based on several methods that combine: for example family therapy, combined with hypnosis, and self-help groups.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is proven psychotherapy. Indeed, it is relatively fast and focuses on negative thought patterns and the maladaptive behaviors that result from them, in order to transform them.
The symptoms of ludomania thus diminish as quickly as possible. It is strongly recommended as a first-line treatment.
Thereafter, you can look for the root cause responsible for your addiction.
In addition, in a limited way and within the framework of therapy, pharmacological treatment is possible to relieve mood disorders associated with gambling addiction, such as depression.
Even if hospitalization remains rare, it is possible, especially if the consequences of pathological practice are life-threatening.
Unlike recreational gamblers, compulsive gamblers live in pain, because the call of the game is stronger than anything.
Pathological gambling can be treated, but the more time passes, the more the vicious circle sets in and reinforces the discomfort. Also, early treatment greatly improves the chances of recovery.
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