Learning how to feel our feelings is a skill that we aren’t generally taught in school or by our parents, but is essential for good mental health.
When we gamble, we are usually responding to a feeling which has been triggered by a thought; it could be you want to reward yourself “I deserve a flutter I’ve worked hard all week”. Or it could be because you have a feeling of sadness that is very painful that you want to avoid feeling or thinking about. This could be due to the death of a loved one or a relationship breakup. The thought here might be something like “I deserve some happiness for all I’ve been through” along with other thoughts such as “just $20 won’t hurt” or “what have I got to lose”.
Sometimes we go on autopilot, so we aren’t aware of what we are thinking or feeling before gambling and feel like we aren’t even in control of ourselves.
Why do we do this?
The brain likes to make things easy for us (imagine trying to think how to drive every time you want to go somewhere), and most of the time this is a good thing.
When we are trying to change a habitual behaviour like gambling or drinking where there has been a reward attached to it like excitement, it can be harder than we think to stop even if it is causing problems in our life like draining our finances and causing us to lie to our loved ones.
I recently received a call from a man who had been playing the pokies, betting on his phone and putting a lot of money on Tattslotto and Powerball. He had been on a trip to Vegas (which he had abstained from gambling to save up for) and after his gambling spree, found it very difficult to rein it back in.
This was causing him to lie to his wife about his activities, and he was worried that when he receives a large sum of money next year, that he will gamble it all away. When I spoke to him about the thoughts he had the last time he gambled it was “I saved $1,000 by painting the room myself, so I deserve to gamble with it”.
This made him have the feeling that it was ok to gamble even though it was causing problems with his wife, leading to him possibly getting divorced. When he discovered the connection between his thoughts and his feelings and the resultant gambling behaviour, he was able to have some compassion for himself and decide how he wanted to think about gambling and whether he wanted it to be a reward for doing his painting.
A learning process
Learning to make this thought, feeling, action connection requires skill and practice just like learning how to drive a car. That is why it is important not to get too angry with yourself if you find yourself gambling when you hadn’t planned to.
Think about what you were thinking and feeling beforehand and maybe you will discover why it happened. Similarly, feeling the sadness that we might feel when someone we love dies rather than avoiding or resisting it is also a skill.
Sometimes we have avoided all negative feeling so much that we think that if we feel the feeling, then we will get sucked into a hole that we won’t be able to come out of it. This is never the case, and when we start to allow our feelings to be there, they become less scary. Urges to gamble can be like that too. This is also a feeling that we can accept and explore rather than avoid or resist as if it will kill us.
When we have an urge to gamble, what is the thought? Maybe write it down as well as any other thoughts that are going on so you can examine them better. Have curiosity rather than beat yourself up for even having the thought.
Thoughts and feelings drive our actions and knowing what they are can help us to choose what we want to think and to feel our feelings better.
Take a few deep breaths and observe what comes up in your mind. Allow the thought to be there and explore it more. You might not like your thoughts but that is ok. It is still better to shine a light on them than be unconsciously ruled by them.
If you need a hand we are here to help; you can chat to one of our counsellors or call the helpline on 1800 858 858 to discuss your thoughts and feelings more. This is what we are here for.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Fred* rang the Gambling Helpline a very worried father. He had just found out that his son Jordan* aged 22, was $30,000 in debt, owed most of this money to credit cards and had used the money for gambling.
Fred admitted that both he and his wife Marie* had known that Jordan gambled, but certainly not to the extent that he would get into debt to the tune of $30,000. Jordan had managed to hide his increasing debt. Fred said he and Marie thought Jordan’s occasional requests to borrow money were related to him having too much fun with his friends and not saving enough. Both were in shock about finding out their son owed so much money and worried about how he would repay it. He was only on an apprentice salary.
Fred told the Helpline Counsellor that they were happy to try and help their son but they had limits. They wanted to help him but not in such a way that he would not learn the lessons of being $30,000 in debt through gambling. The other side of their dilemma was their worry about his credit rating. What would happen to his prospects if he did not pay the debt? Should they or should they not pay off his debt was the question they wanted to discuss when they called the Helpline.
As every situation and person is different, the following needed to be considered:
- How the damage the gambling had caused could be minimised now and in the future, for the person gambling and for their loved onesHow the cycle of problematic gambling could be stopped
- How the person with the problem could be encouraged to develop a more realistic attitude to money and to gambling.
- Jordan’s parents were advised to encourage Jordan to consult a financial counsellor as part of him taking responsibility for his actions. They were advised that they could consider going along as support if Jordan agreed. They were also advised of the counselling available for Jordan and for them, either separately or together.
Get to know the signs that might indicate a problem is developing.
If you have a family member who you are concerned about, or if you would like some guidance about how to move a loved one towards change while still supporting them, give the Gambling Helpline a call on 1800 858 858. You can speak to a trained counsellor about the best option for you and your loved one.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Youth gambling is a concern for many parents especially with the increasing presence of gambling in sports and online. There may be one person suffering from gambling in every high school class.
Ideally young people won’t gamble at all, if they do sometimes it can become a serious issue which may result in depression, missing school or dropping out, undermined friendships, family disruption and criminal behaviour.
Young people can be vulnerable to problem gambling because they:
- can be impulsive
- might not understand the risks
- can be influenced by media and advertising
- are inquisitive and think they can win
- are digitally savvy using smart phones, tablets, apps and the internet 24/7. In doing so they may try and get around legal barriers to online gaming or gambling sites.
What signs should I be looking for?
- If you are experiencing some of the following signs from a young person that you are concerned about you may want to speak to one of our counsellors about ways to access some support:short of money all the time and spending less on other things like clothes, movies and music
- struggling at school or work, have they had a drop in their grades or are consistently getting in trouble
- displaying changes in mood, perhaps they are withdrawing from friends, social activities or events
- sleeping differently, have their patterns changed or are they more tired than usual
- irritable when they are away from gambling activities
- being secretive about gambling, and denying that there’s a problem, or
- talking about sports and other events only in terms of the odds.
Risk factors for youth gambling
A young person may be more at risk if they:
- Have a large gambling win, especially early on
- Are experiencing stress – this may relate to things like family pressure, personal problems, relationship issues or school conflict
- Have poor support, coping skills or problem solving skills
- Have significant people in their life who gamble
Do not despair!
There is lots of support available and there are some proactive things you can try to minimise the possibility of gambling becoming a problem. This could include encouraging a close social network who do not gamble and getting them to engage in recreational interests such as sports, art, movies or outdoor activities
Also try to build a strong support network for them and make sure they understand that people are there to help them. This can include people such as family, friends, teachers, community or religious leaders, school counsellors or even your local GP.
Remember that kids are always watching and observing. Young people are more likely to gamble if they observe their family members gambling, or they hear their family members talking excitedly about gambling. Think about how you talk about gambling.
Concerned – what can I do?
If you are concerned about a young person’s gambling you can seek professional help through NSW Gambling Help services, face to face, by phone or online. These are free services that are available nation-wide phone: 1800 858 858 – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week
Some things that you can consider trying if you are concerned about a young person’s gambling:
- Limit pocket money. Where possible use vouchers or even pre buy tickets to things so that they attend activities.
- Restrict credit card access; keep them somewhere you can keep an eye on.
- Talk to other parents or your local GP.
- Have a discussion about how gambling works, try to emphasise that it is a form of entertainment and not a good way to make money. Talk about some of the risks of gambling.
You may also like to read the booklet for parents dealing with their gambling –
Gambling can be a social and recreational activity for many people over 60. For some gambling provides an opportunity to socialise when other social activities may have become too difficult.
Regardless of age, it is important to remember that anyone that gambles can be at risk of harm. Harms can be emotional, physical or financial. In particular, the economic harm of gambling for mature aged people can have a dramatic effect on the person’s life, as they may be on a fixed income, i.e., pension or retirement.
Some potential contributing factors to gambling becoming a problem for mature aged adults are:
- Gambling Machines can be deceptively simple to put money in, which can make it easy to spend more than planned.
- Machines are made deliberately technical, making it difficult to understand how it works and how much you are spending.
- Some mature adults sleepless, nights can feel lonely making the seemingly warm and inviting venues an attractive place to stay.
- For people who have lost partners or friends, loneliness, grief, and isolation may be difficult to manage, and gambling provides an escape and somewhere welcoming to spend some time.
- Having more free time, boredom can be a risk factor for gambling getting out of hand as someone adapts to a new lifestyle, without a purpose to their daily routines.
Recently we spoke to a Mike*, who was dismayed at how his gambling had got out of hand.
Mike is a retired farmer who has recently lost his wife and is struggling with the loneliness of being at home by himself. “One day just started merging into the next, and I lost track of time,” said Mike.
He explained that when he began gambling, it felt like he was having fun again and enjoyed spending time outside his house. “The way hotel staff welcomed me with a cup of coffee and biscuit made me feel at home”. He says.
Mike began staying longer at the hotel and spending more money on the pokies, at this point life became more stressful, trying to balance his limited income. “I am ashamed that this has got out of hand and I don’t want to worry the kids by asking for their help,” he said when we mentioned asking his family for support.
After speaking to the counsellor he realised that it was normal to feel grief and sadness after losing a loved one. Gambling had provided him an escape, but it also caused him harm. “I am ready to change now, I just need the tools to help me do it,” says Mike
Mike was provided with the phone number of a free financial counsellor to help him put his money in order and a budget in place. He also agreed to reach out for support from his family and to reconnect with his friends.
If you can identify with issues, we have described in this blog we have free, confidential and understanding counsellors waiting to chat to you now, to help you begin making a change to your gambling.
It can be hard taking a step forward and chatting to a counsellor for the first time, you are not alone if you are feeling this way.
If you have been exploring the different options on our site you may notice we often encourage people to link to one of our counsellors.
Why try online counselling?
Online counselling is an ideal option for people taking the first step as its completely anonymous and confidential, also you can access it anywhere and anytime all you need is an internet enabled device.
We know this is a big step and often takes a lot of courage. Being here and reading this article on our site shows you are contemplating making a change, which is a step in the right direction so well done!
Who will I be chatting to?
Our trained counsellors are here to help you. They have a range of qualifications in health sciences, including Psychology, Social Work, Nursing, Psychiatric Nursing and Welfare Studies. They are never judgemental, they work through where you are at and help you to find the best way forward.
Where do I begin?
Sometimes people tell our counsellors that not knowing what to say or how to say made it difficult to begin the conversation. That it took them some time to work up to it, but once they were there they were glad they had.
Even if you have some reservations once you are chatting to them it becomes surprisingly easy to say what is troubling you, potentially gaining insight into is going on and what to do next.
So why not get started and chat to one of our counsellors today.
Not sure if you are ready still? Read a bit more about the advantages and disadvantage of online counselling.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
Partners, family members and friends often ring the Gambling Helpline (1800 858 858) wanting advice about how to talk to their loved ones about their gambling. Many times they want to talk about how to begin the conversation.
Other times the family member or significant other admits gambling has been an ongoing discussion topic that, from the caller’s point of view, goes nowhere.
Some of the common issues for the callers who have had several attempts at a conversation are:
- The person who is gambling blocks the conversation:
‘As soon as I start talking about his gambling, he shuts down and won’t talk to me. I never get anywhere’.
- The person who is the gambler gets angry:
‘We are all too scared to talk to her about her gambling because she goes ballistic whenever we mention it. We’ve learned just to accept it and not say anything’.
There may be good reasons for this kind of reaction, and it is all about the feelings that come up for a person who is having a gambling problem. Often when they are approached about gambling, they will have intense feelings of shame, embarrassment and frustration, which then cause them to either internalise (shut down and refuse to talk about it) or externalise (start becoming angry and aggressive).
Both of these communication styles are understandable ways of responding to something which is the source of such strong emotions, especially if they result in people leaving them alone afterwards and not raising the issue again. However, they also result in the issue not getting discussed. The person is often so overwhelmed with these emotions that they never have a conversation about their gambling, and nothing changes. As a loved one, you may not want to upset them further and may even be afraid about getting the same response next time.
When a person with gambling problems has a realisation about the magnitude of the impacts of their gambling on themselves and those around them they can become distressed. This distress is often fuelled by shame, guilt and frustration at not being able to stop gambling.
People are much less likely to have an open conversation when they are feeling cornered and ashamed – they will be overwhelmed and likely not be able to take anything in and think clearly about their need to begin to acknowledge their gambling problems.
One way of managing this issue is to try and engage with the person in a way that helps them feel calm and understood.
Here are a few tips about starting the conversation with a loved one who you are concerned about:
Write down some points that you want to discuss beforehand. That way if you become upset or emotional you can refer back to them to make sure you are getting your point across.
Choose a quiet environment to talk to them about their gambling – somewhere you are unlikely to be disturbed and where they feel comfortable.
Instead of telling them what you think, ask a lot of questions about their gambling. Try to get a sense of what it is like for them and what it is they are getting from gambling.
Acknowledge this conversation may be emotional for both of you.
Avoid criticisms or accusations – your aim is to get your loved one to talk about their gambling and figure out themselves what needs to change.
If you have any questions about this approach or if you would like some further advice or support from a gambling counsellor, please give us a call on 1800 858 858.
Increasingly people are reaching out for help because online gambling is adversely affecting their lives. Here are some of the reasons for this and what you can do to try and reduce or stop gambling online.
If you feel that online gambling is affecting your life, you are not alone. Need a hand straight away? You can start chatting to a counsellor right away.
Why are more people gambling online?
Smartphones and other portable internet-enabled devices, plus the proliferation of online gambling websites are making really easy to gamble no matter where you are, and without some of the checks and balances that have existed with traditional gambling outlets.
The companies that set up online gambling sites rely on the fact that they are so easy to access day and night. They use science to make them as addictive as possible, enacting parts of the brain that release feel-good chemicals like dopamine every time you “win’ or have a “near win’, this coupled with the ease of access even when trying to abstain can make it difficult to move away from the temptation.
Debts can easily spiral because of the distance between money and reality, once you have put in your card details it may not feel like you have spent a lot of money until they realise when they look at their bank account. At times the money doesn’t feel real, more like the money in a board game than something they have hard to earn through hard work.
Need a helping hand?
Mike* called for help after a recent relapse triggered by an online advertisement.
I thought it was ok if I gambled with free credits, as I wasn’t really spending anything. I started to win big playing free online casino games and convinced myself that spending a few of my own dollars would be ok!
I soon got hooked back into gambling but this time it was online. I had avoided the hotels for several months and was so pleased with myself. It’s so hard to resist the temptation to gamble when it's on my phone and computer at work and home.
Even though he was already in recovery, he found that reaching out and admitting his relapse was p[particularly difficult as he felt ashamed that he had been drawn back into gambling. But said that once he chatted to one of our counsellors he felt immediate relief.
The counsellor provided him with a few simple steps to reduce his gambling and an appointment to see a free counsellor who specialises in gambling-related issues.
How can I change?
If you are struggling with online gambling here are a few things you can try to curb or stop your online gambling:
- Self Exclusion – check out some of the options for excluding online
- Keep your money safe – limit your access to cards that could be linked to online gambling sites
- Opt out, unsubscribe or block email addresses that will send you
- Avoid the temptation, limit your access to the internet until you feel you can manage
- Put your phone away or downgrade your phone to one that doesn’t have the internet
- Find other activities that stimulate and engage you – exercise, sports, craft, socialising, cooking etc.
Need a hand with making a change to your gambling? You can chat to one of our counsellors anytime - get started.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
In our lives we are often very busy trying to balance different commitments which often leaves little time out for ourselves. Whether you are a parent, working full time, dealing with family, relationships, or financial issues, chances are you have experienced stress in the past week.
Stress is the feeling we have when under pressure and can affect us not just mentally but physically as well. There are many different signs of stress such as headaches, low energy, sleeplessness and feeling irritable.
In general, a bit of stress is not bad. It makes us think faster, puts us under pressure to perform. However, evidence shows that chronic exposure to stress can lead to us developing psychological problems like depression and anxiety. Our bodies aren’t meant to withstand long-term stress.
Gambling is often a coping mechanism for stress or low mood. If you think of your own gambling, perhaps you are more likely to gamble when you’re feeling stressed out.
Gambling provides a temporary escape from those uncomfortable feelings of tension, anxiety and irritation. The addictive nature of gambling also means that what starts to temporarily relieve stress, quickly becomes a source of even more stress!
For some people with gambling problems there is a very clear link between stress in their lives and problem gambling.
For example, some people we talk to admitted stress was a trigger for their gambling:
This caller described feeling stressed with her mother unwell in hospital so gambling was a quick fix for her:
‘I dropped my mum back at the hospital and went straight to the pokies’
Another person we spoke to described how an argument would send her to the pokies:
‘I had a fight with my partner and gambled’
This male caller gambled after work to deal with his days stress:
‘I go to the club after work, especially if it has been a bad day’.
Unfortunately, when people experience stress they are more vulnerable to gamble.
Stress can make people feel overwhelmed where they can’t think clearly. This means a quicksolution to stress such as the excitement of gambling becomes difficult to resist.
Therefore, if you manage your stress effectively you will be less likely to choose a solution that provides only temporary relief, such as gambling.
So how can we manage our stress better? A lot of the gambling research indicates that reducing stress is a big part of managing gambling. Here are some tips:
- Self-care – whether this is a 20-minute walk in the morning or a dinner with friends to unwind. Most people have strategies they know can reduce their stress and help them feel more relaxed.
- Support – research has shown that one of the best things a person can do when they are going through a difficult time, is to access support. This could be friends, neighbours, family members or colleagues. If we have at least one person to talk to about an event or ongoing situation, we fare much better psychologically.
- Counselling – Perhaps the stress in your life is from a difficult relationship or the financial consequences of gambling. Trained counsellors can quickly help you to identify sources of stress and help you developing strategies to recover. You can contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to arrange a free and confidential appointment with a trained gambling counsellor or financial counsellor.
Finding creative activities that you enjoy can be an excellent way of keeping on track when you are making a change to your gambling. This is Audrey’s* story, whose renewed love of making things has helped get her back on track.
Some of the creative pieces Audrey has made: Source - Supplied
Audrey had been gambling for just over 15 years on the pokies, and came to see that it was impacting on not only her finances, but her relationship with her family, and also caused her anxiety.
The financial impact of her gambling started to become apparent, a lot of her and her husbands savings had been spent on the on pokies after work.
“Over a period of time it had become a routine to go and gamble after work, on top of the financial impact it had also pulled me away from spending quality time with my son, and hobbies that I used to love.” says Audrey
Making a change
Once Audrey realised the impact gambling was having on her she sought help. Slowly but surely, Audrey and her counsellor worked at identifying what triggered to gamble, her motivations and how to break the cycle.
One thing that really helped Audrey is her willingness to try and incorporate new activities, and restart old ones that provided a sense of fulfilment that gambling wasn’t giving her.
Furniture that Audrey reupholstered to brighten up the garden: Source - Supplied
Audrey rediscovered her passion in making things, and joined a glass making group and refurbishing furniture.
Within two months of working with a counsellor Audrey has ceased gambling, and has remained abstinent. She says “I feel more in control, and am spending more time with family and friends.”
Interested in finding an creative alternative to gambling? Speak to one of our counselors today.
It’s normal for people to feel down about themselves from time to time. When these feelings became part of a person’s daily routine it can be an indication of low self-esteem. People with low self-esteem are often critical and focus on their negatives and disregard any positives or accomplishments. Comparing yourself to others also affects self-esteem potentially causing depression.
But remember you can build on your self esteem - here is an example of someone who has struggled with their self esteem while struggling with their gambling and how they built it back up!
Those with gambling problems can have low self-esteem, when they act out of character to obtain money or waste money in the quest of an unattainable financial dream.
Initially gambling can feel like it eases the burden of low self-esteem, allowing people to engage in a fantasy world of imagined wins, financial success and social acceptance. But once the money is gone the persons self-esteem takes a tumble and they feel more ashamed.
Sam* described how disappointed he felt with himself and his ongoing gambling:
I just could not stop gambling it was a really strong compulsion. I really believed I would win big one day and fix all the problems and debts I had caused my family. I just had to keep trying I did this for years but it was terrible with ups and downs constantly draining me of all my energy.
Eventually I let go of this hope. I finally realised gambling was not the answer but it took a long time. Letting go of this dream meant I had no way of getting out of my troubles. I thought I was a bad person, these thoughts caused me much shame and my self-esteem was minimal. I could not imagine I could ever get my life back and provide for my family like my friends.
Sam admits this was a very dark time in his life. However, when he sought help from a gambling counsellor, he started to challenge his negative thinking and realised he was not a bad man. He could see he just wanted to provide a good life for his family.
Eventually he found that the pokies no longer had a hold on him. He began to feel pride when he walked past his old gambling venue and did not gamble. With help from his financial counsellor, his money began to have value again, he started to pay off his bills and his savings eventually grew.
With support Sam worked hard and eventually got his life back. He is glad he challenged the voice inside him that said “you will never get on top of this problem”
Imagine if you could walk past your gambling venue and keep walking without gambling. Each time your self-esteem increases and your determination becomes stronger. People would be proud of you, and you will be proud of yourself.
With work this can be a reality – why not chat with one of our counsellors on how to do this – you can get started here.
Addressing your self-esteem is just one component of effective long-term recovery – but it’s a very important one. Continually build on our small successes increase our self-esteem in the process.
Here are some tips and strategies to try:
- Connect with people who give you a sense of acceptance, don’t associate with people who make you feel bad about yourself.
- Beware of negative thoughts and challenge them. If you keep telling yourself that you’re no good, you might just start to believe it even though it’s not true.
- Don’t beat yourself up when you make a mistake, be kind to yourself and learn from it .
- Focus on the things you can change ……why not ask for help?
- Start exercising it helps to improve your mood.
- Everyone is great at something - what are your strengths?
- Schedule some fun time every day, you could do a puzzle or watch a TV show you enjoy.
- Surround yourself with supportive people who don’t gamble.
- It’s a good idea to talk to someone you trust, like a friend or family member.
Developing your self-esteem can be the foundation for your recovery. Chat to one of our Gambling counsellors today it’s easy to get started.