The Hidden Resource is a KEY

16 Jan 18
Hidden Resources
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Not sure if you have the resources available to you to change your gambling? The good news is that all of us have a hidden resource within us that often holds the keys to successful and lasting change. Using our knowledge of what worked in the past, to inform our future behaviour, can be the key to success. By looking back at past successes and finding what helped them get there you can find strategies that work for you to solve your problems.

Here are some hidden resources our callers have shared.

Social support – seeking support from someone you trust 

Nancy* explained how she successfully completed a half marathon – despite struggling with time management and commitment to exercise, she reached this important goal. When we talked about how she did this, a key factor in her success was that a good friend was training with her. She remembered a few mornings each week they ran together. They celebrated their progress together and kept each other on track. 

She also found it helpful to have social support in her journey when changing her gambling – she regularly visited the forum, staying connected with others who had similar goals to her, kept her motivated.  She also asked her friend to help keep her on track when she felt vulnerable. 

Self-Monitoring – taking time to look at what is going on

Tom* explained how he had lost a large amount of weight. He stuck to his weight loss plan despite being stressed. In the past stress would cause him to overeat.  When we discussed what had helped him, he remembered each day entering his exercise and calorie intake into an app, and weighing himself each week. This became routine, and he became used to paying attention to what he was eating, and saw changes.

He realised the benefits of self-monitoring and applied this to changing his gambling – he monitored his expenditure and urges and tracked his progress. 

He soon realised that he was spending more than planned after he tracked his money. As he reduced his spending and saw the benefits, he felt encouraged to continue. He also monitored when he was experiencing an urge to gamble. This was helpful in raising his awareness of triggers, putting in place strategies to avoid the temptation to gamble.  

Professional Help – connecting with a trained professional counsellor 

Ling* found speaking to a professional and getting advice and support was useful in difficult times. Having this space where she could talk freely and confidentially made it possible to work through painful and challenging issues. 

Over time she looked forward to her weekly sessions with her regular counsellor, as she found them helpful for developing strategies, and speaking with someone who understood her. Sometimes she still chatted with a counsellor online, it was helpful to have a quick chat when she needed support in-between sessions and found this kept on track in difficult moments.

How About You?

What kinds of things have you found helpful in changing your life? Tapping into these hidden resources can be helpful to make changes to your gambling. If you have something you would like to share why not join the forum and chat with others today?

If you would like to chat about what has helped in the past or would like to chat about getting some additional support, start a session here or call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. 

Starting the new year - a good time to make a change!

30 Dec 17
What's your New Year's Resolution?
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Going into a new year can be a good time to make a change in your life. If you are working on changing your gambling, it can also be a good time to reinforce this with a New Year's resolutions, whatever stage of change you are at you can set yourself a goal that will help you start the new year off well. 

What is a New Year's Resolution?

A New Year's resolution is a promise made by a person to themselves for the year, usually to address something they want to improve.

Since you are here, it’s likely you want to change your gambling; it makes sense to think about making a New Year’s Resolution that helps you work on making this change.

Finding your resolution

To get started, write a list of some things you could do to improve your life and reduce the impact gambling is having. Once you have done this, choose one of these goals as your resolution.

Be careful about the goal you choose, it's tempting to set yourself a big goal, but think about what is achievable for you at the moment, it’s important to make your goal realistic. Once you have reached one goal, you can set yourself another and slowly tick them off, don't forget to celebrate your achievements along the way

Need ideas?

Here are a few ideas for resolutions you could make:

  • When I feel tempted to gamble I will call my counsellor or gamblers help.
  • I will change my gambling routine to break the cycle. On days where I would have gambled I will plan activities like going for a walk or catch up for a coffee with friends.
  • I will improve my physical health by eating healthy, exercising or sleeping better.
  • I will try new things – i.e. joining a cooking class or trying yoga.
  • I will avoid high-risk situations I know will make it hard to meet my goal – i.e. avoid carrying excess money, not going to gaming venues, having a plan on payday, or not gambling alone when bored or upset.

What next?

Now you have chosen your goal, make a plan for how you will achieve it. Having a plan and finding things that will help you achieve it can make the journey much easier.

To help you stay on track tell a person or a few people you trust about your New Year’s Resolution as their support can help.

Choose someone who understands where you are at and will support you, this small change that can have a huge impact on reaching your goals for the New Year.

Look after yourself

Also be kind to yourself, people who have changed their gambling may have had slips or lapses along the way, it’s a normal part of recovery. As you become more confident and find what works for you these slips will happen less often.

Remember you don’t have to do it alone! Our counsellors are here to help you anytime and we can also refer you to local services that can help you change your gambling.

Need help deciding what your resolution will be and how you will achieve it? You can confidentially chat with one of our counsellors now.

Whatever your limits are, it is a great time to think about them

1 Dec 17
know your gambling limits
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

What do we mean by this?

Say you’ve gone to the races with your mates. You’ve had a great day; the sun was shining, you’ve had a few drinks and shared a few laughs. You’ve also had a few bets, and after the last race of the day, you’ve lost $150.

Take a moment to think about how you feel? Do you feel comfortable with how much you lost in the context of an enjoyable day out with your friends? Perhaps you feel regret, or maybe you feel guilty?

After losing money gambling, a lot of people can regret their actions or feel guilty, regardless of how much money they’ve spent.  But does this mean that you have a gambling problem? It depends on what you do next.

At the end of the day

Some of your friends are ready to head home, while others want to head out for dinner and a few more drinks. Do you:

  1. Join your friends for dinner?
  2. Go home to rest after a long day?
  3. Stay at the races to keep betting?
  4. Join your friends for dinner but continue betting on your phone?

Answering yes to option A or B means that you are able to exercise control over your gambling.

Answering yes to option C or D may indicate that your gambling is out of balance with other activities in your life. Perhaps you could do with some support to put some limits in place.

While most people feel guilty and regret losing their money after gambling, the majority quickly forget about it and move on with their lives. But problem gamblers cannot. They are driven to try and win back their losses, and often end up losing far more money.

What was your motivation?

Still not sure how you feel about your gambling? Let’s take a look at your motivation for going to the races. Was it to:

  1. Enjoy spending time with your friends?
  2. Have a fun day out?
  3. Win money?
  4. Take your mind off other problems in your life?

Answering yes to either A or B means that you may gamble for a bit of entertainment and to be social. If you gamble for these reasons, it’s likely you know your limits and are gambling responsibly.

Answering yes to either C or D indicates that you may not understand the risks of gambling or may use gambling as an unhealthy coping mechanism. Getting support for this may be useful.

Many people enjoy betting on the races during the Spring Carnival to have a bit of fun and to be social. While almost all people who gamble are hoping to win money, most people realise that they will probably lose and are comfortable with that. If you are not comfortable with losing money, or have unrealistic expectations about winning, you are more likely to feel regret or guilt when you lose. If you gamble to avoid your problems, or out of boredom or loneliness, gambling will, at best, only temporarily distract you from these problems.

What was your game plan?

Still not sure how to feel about your gambling? Let’s take a look at what your plan was for the day. Keeping in mind that you have lost $150, did you originally:

  1. Set yourself a limit of $150?
  2. Set yourself a limit of $50?

If you answered A, you were able to exercise control over your gambling and risked a manageable amount of money.

If you answered B, you may have trouble limiting the amount of money that you gamble. This could lead to adverse consequences for you and getting support may be helpful.

While most people who go to the races will lose money, many have an idea beforehand about how much they are willing to lose. When they reach that amount, they stop betting. However, problem gamblers generally do not have the self-control to stop at this point and often end up losing more than they can afford to.

If any of these behaviours sound familiar, you may have a problem with gambling or be at risk of developing a problem at a later stage. Either way, rest assured that help is available. You do not need to be at crisis point before reaching out for help.

Getting help is as easy as visiting the Gambling Help website to access self-assessment tools and advice, or if you would like to talk to someone call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to speak with a trained counsellor. This service is free, confidential and available 24/7 anywhere in Australia.

Alternatively, having a chat with a trusted friend or family member about your gambling concerns can also help and may greatly reduce the likelihood of you developing a problem.

Remember, whatever your limits are, help is available anytime.

Are you being affected by gambling? Our forum may help!

19 Sep 17
Forum Screenshot
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“I truly believe that if it wasn't for logging on to this forum daily I would still be gambling. I said to my husband I believe this forum is a life saver.” – Anonymous Forum member

If you are being affected by gambling and could use some support from people who understand, the Gambling Help Online (GHO) Forum might be the place for you.

People being affected by gambling often tell us that they feel quite isolated, it can be tough talking to people about it, so finding a community of people who understand you can be really transformative.

Who is it for?

The GHO Forum is a space for anyone affected by gambling, whether you’re someone who gambles, a concerned family member or friend, a colleague or a health professional. 

On the Forum, you can connect with others, share your stories, setbacks and strategies for change, access information, discuss hot topics and see the latest in gambling research.

How does it work?

Some people start by simply reading other people’s posts, and find this really helpful. Or you can sign up here, remember you don’t need to use your real name, in fact, it’s probably better for your anonymity that you don’t. Once you sign up you start posting and chatting to people straight away.

The Forum is facilitated by counsellors, though we prefer to take a back seat in conversation; we want this to be a space where you find support in your peers. However, we will post occasionally, and feel free to bounce ideas off us, ask us questions, or even private message us if you have a concern. We’re here to support you! 

Please bear in mind though that facilitators are on rotating shifts, so sometimes might not be able to respond straight away. We will always respond within a period of time (usually 48 hours), but if you're looking for an immediate response, you can always click here to access our online counselling service.

The benefits of joining

Lot’s of people choose to hang out on the Forum without posting, which is absolutely fine, it’s full of wonderful information from people who have lived experience changing their gambling.

There are even more benefits for those who join up and share their experience’s, as they can get some of what they are feeling out into a non- judgemental, dedicated place where can discuss issues related to their gambling.

It’s normal for some people to initially have feelings of shame when sharing the details of the gambling with others, but it is exhausting and unhelpful to keep these issues to yourself.

Once you get started it will be easier and the feeling of being included with a group of people dealing with similar concerns can be really empowering and improve your well-being.

“One of the most liberating things I have done in many years!” Anonymous Forum Member

Many members say that the positive reinforcement between members helps to keep each other on the right track and that reading other people’s posts about overcoming the same challenges can be inspiring. 

Remember you can share as much as you are comfortable with, all our forum members stared somewhere and this is part of the journey, so why not join up today?

Relapse Part 3 - Gambling Urges

15 Aug 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

brain

Welcome to the third part of the relapse blog – in the previous blogs we discussed the impact of environmental factors in relapse. In this blog we will look at the urge to gamble and relapse. The urge to gamble has been well documented in research to be one of the most powerful factors related to relapse (Oakes et al, 2011, Oei and Gordon 2008, Smith et al, 2013). Even after recovery, many gamblers will still have to deal with urges that often come out of the blue and increase the risk of relapse. Despite the gamblers best intentions not to gamble once the urge rises it can become difficult to resist the temptation to gamble.

Gamblers report triggers often unique to their own circumstances that result in an automatic response to gamble often described as excitement, an adrenaline rush, a compulsion or an urge. Some of these triggers are having money, being bored, feeling stressed, being lonely, experiencing physical pain and or managing every day bills. Gambling can distract from the stress associated with for example loneliness pain or financial worries.

Participants in a study by Oakes et al 2011 described the urge to gamble as below:

“It is a terrible drag once it gets into your system and I do not know what drags it, probably the thought of hitting that Jackpot or I have to get back that money that I have lost”.

“There is nothing anybody says or does that is going to stop you. It’s a build-up of intensity and a force that you just go”.

Why is this important?

These quotes highlight the importance of addressing the urge to gamble before it becomes too strong to resist. If a person can address the urge to gamble successfully they will be better protected against relapsing. Most people who attend a gambling counsellor find it very helpful to look at specific urge management strategies to help reduce the risks of relapse.

Managing Urges

Just think – if you knew you were going to run a marathon in twelve months time, you would need to start training before the date. You’d need to get used to running short distances, then longer, and build up to the final distance. It would be unrealistic to expect you to wake up tomorrow and run the full distance without doing any preparation! We could also expect along the way that you might experience setbacks, such as injuries and loss of motivation. But if you have the right support and if the goal has a meaning for you, it is likely you will get at least part of the way there in the end.

It is similar when you think about urge management. Urges to gamble can be incredibly strong, and some people even describe feeling like they are not in control of themselves. It is important to remember that, as a gambling problem develops over time, it will take time to manage your urges.  It takes time to begin to understand when you will have an urge, and to identify the times that you’ve been able to sit with your urges without giving in to them. In many ways it might feel like running a marathon, because it is a work in progress.

When you think about it, an urge is just a pathway in your brain that has been activated before by gambling. The longer you can go without ‘re-engaging’ it, the weaker the urge will become. After some time, it will lose a lot of its power and urgency, and you’ll be able to focus on other things. A trained gambling counsellor can provide support about how to ‘train’ yourself to tolerate and manage urges.

If you’re struggling to manage your urges, or they feel uncontrollable, it is a good idea to seek some ongoing support by talking to a friend or family member you can trust. Limiting your access to money is also important when you’re struggling with your urges to gamble.

If you’d like some more help with managing urges, call the Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling. We also have some Self Help Strategies to help you look at ways to manage your urges that are freely available on:

http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/need-help/downloads-and-orders/?need-help

Oakes, J.E., Pols, R.G., Battersby, M.W., Lawn, S.J., Pulvirenti, M., & Smith, D.P., 2011. A focus group study of predictors of relapse in electronic gaming machine problem gambling, Part 1:Factors that ‘push’ towards relapse. Journal of Gambling Studies

Oei, T., & Gordon, L. (2008). Psychosocial factors related to gambling abstinence and relapse in members of gamblers anonymous. Journal of Gambling Studies, 24(1), 91.

Smith, D, Battersby, M, Pols, R, Harvey, P, Oakes, J & Baigent, M 2013, ‘Predictors of Relapse in Problem Gambling: A Prospective Cohort Study’, Journal of Gambling Studies, pp. 1-15.

Relapse Part 2 - Environmental factors that can lead to relapse

8 Aug 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

hiking

Problem gamblers often describe their relapses with a lot of emotion. It can be devastating to fall back into old patterns of behaviour and feel like you are back at square one again. All of that hard work can feel like it was for nothing. Often relapse is described as the most devastating thing that a person recovering from an addiction can experience.

Pia described her relapse after 6 months of staying away from the pokies:

‘I couldn’t believe I’d done it again. After all my hard work, going to counselling, managing my money and keeping a diary of my recovery, I felt like I was right back at square one’.

So what contributes to relapse, and what protects against it?

Some research into gambling relapse has focused on the ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors (Oakes et al 2011a and 2011b). Each relapse episode is made up of several factors that either end in relapse (where ‘push’ overcomes ‘pull’) or continued abstinence (where ‘pull’ overcomes ‘push’).

Factors that ‘push’ a person towards relapse these include:

  1. Environmental gambling triggers
  2. The presence of an urge to gamble
  3. Unrealistic thoughts about gambling such as a belief in luck
  4. Negative emotions such as stress, escape, boredom, financial stress, and physical health.

This blog will focus on some of the Environmental Triggers that can lead to relapse.

 Many people are frustrated as they try to abstain from gambling due to the many opportunities in their environment to access gambling. For example, James described how he was overwhelmed by opportunities to gamble which are “everywhere” making relapse difficult for him to resist.

“If you want to go out for a meal, yes it’s everywhere, it’s impossible to not be near the pokies. I went there for a meal this was just an excuse to go to the pokies and gamble once again”

 Pam admitted when she could not sleep at night she would just get up and walk to a local hotel and gamble. She was upset as she often gambled without stopping to question herself about what she was doing despite trying hard to abstain.

 “It was easy to walk to a local hotel and that’s quite acceptable to go there in the early hours of the morning if you can’t sleep.  I tried so hard not to gamble but the hotels are everywhere and open all hours. The temptation to gamble became too hard to resist.

 Michael was able to abstain from gambling for many months after experiencing significant gambling problems. However, when he gained employment next to a hotel this became a significant problem for him. As work pressures in Michael’s new job began to increase he found it difficult to resist gambling. He was confronted by opportunities to gamble on a daily basis with the hotel next door.

 When I started my new job working next to the hotel it was easy to walk into the venue after work and convince myself I deserved to relax so I began to play the pokies again. When I started to have issues at work I found myself going to the hotel at lunch times to escape my work problems. Soon my gambling became out of control as I could not avoid the hotel next door.

If you’ve identified similar environmental factors contributing to your gambling, it may help you to talk to a trained counsellor to get some support.

You may like to call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling.

We also have some Self Help Strategies to help you that are freely available on:

http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/need-help/downloads-and-orders/?need-help

In future blogs we will focus on the other ‘push factors” and then look at the ‘pull’ factors (aka protective factors).

Oakes, J.E., Pols, R.G., Battersby, M.W., Lawn, S.J., Pulvirenti, M., & Smith, D.P., 2011. A focus group study of predictors of relapse in electronic gaming machine problem gambling, part 1:factors that ‘push’ towards relapse. Journal of Gambling Studies

Oakes, J.E., Pols, R.G., Battersby, M.W., Lawn, S.J., Pulvirenti, M., & Smith, D.P., 2011. A focus group study of predictors of relapse in electronic gaming machine problem gambling, part 2:factors that ‘pull’ the gambler away from relapse. Journal of Gambling Studies.

Relapse - Part 1

1 Aug 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

Relapse

One thing to always think about when addressing gambling problems, is relapse. Unfortunately it is a  common part of the change process and can seem to come up out of the blue. Here are some quotes from clients who were asked to reflect on the times they had relapsed:

I was going so well and then I found myself driving to a venue and going in. I told myself I would only gamble $50 because I deserved a treat, after all my hard work. I ended up emptying my bank account and leaving there 3 hours later in a state. Looking back there were lots of signs I was headed for a relapse – but I didn’t notice at the time.

-Eileen

After I had that fight with my partner, I knew I was going to gamble. I went straight to the pub and ordered a beer, then started to bet. I just didn’t care anymore.

-Daniel

I caught up with an old girlfriend and after lunch, she suggested that we put some money into the pokies. I didn’t want to be rude and say no, so I went with her and we spent $15 each. After she had left, I went back there and spent much more by myself.

-Sarah

Even when we have made changes to our behaviour and seen the progress ourselves, we can often slip back into old habits and ways of thinking. If you think about it, there are probably times that everyone has experienced a relapse of a kind. Think about a time you have started an exercise regime, and experienced great results and thought ‘I’m going to keep this up forever’. Then life gets busy, the routine gets disrupted, and we slip back into old habits. It takes a lot of effort to make change stick, particularly with something as addictive as gambling.

Some clients that we speak to will talk about making big changes in their lives when their gambling causes them to reach crisis point. They will put the money management into place, go to counselling, and set themselves goals. They see big improvements in their relationships, mental health and general wellbeing. Then, when everything has settled down again and the crisis has passed, they will relapse.

Why does this happen?

There are a number of explanations, but one is that that addictive part of our brains is really powerful. And once the reasons for stopping gambling are gone (and someone is feeling financially stable again), the reasons to gamble might become a bit louder. Just the same as the part of your brain that says ‘go on, have another chocolate biscuit, it won’t hurt’, is motivated by reward, so is the gambling part of your brain. Gambling is often enjoyable for people, so of course we will have a hard time saying goodbye to it forever. When things settle down and the stress caused by gambling diminishes, we can be quite vulnerable to relapse if we’re not careful.

Some people will have the need to test themselves, or believe that now the problem is managed, they can control their gambling. Unfortunately with gambling, the neural pathways are incredibly strong. People will talk about going back to a venue after 6 months away, and losing huge amounts of money in one go. They might lose even more than they had been used to losing because they had saved up money in the meantime, or hadn’t limited their access to it, believing they would be safe. Unfortunately those neural pathways are there and are re-activated by the environment, by the machines, even by the smells.

It might help to compare this to when you taste a certain food, or smell a perfume or something cooking. That sensation can trigger memories, emotions, things from the past that we associate with it. With the pokies, they are designed so that, when you hear the music, or see the symbols, your brain goes right back into ‘gambling’ mode. The reward centres of your brain are activated and it is very hard for you to walk away. The machines are designed to ‘hack’ your brain so that you’re stuck there. Over time the pathways get weaker, but they will always be there. With pokies it is much safer to stay away altogether, to avoid being ‘re-activated’.

In our next blog we will discuss some ways to avoid relapse and make changes stick for good.

Getting your relapse prevention plan in place of the puzzle, but it is an important factor. If you’ve experienced relapse before, or are concerned about relapsing in the future, it may help you to talk to a trained counsellor to get some support. Click on the link below to find out more:

http://www.gamblinghelp.nsw.gov.au/take-action/search-results

There is also help available from an experienced gambling counsellor call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling.

Gambling Counselling for Culturally and Linguistically Diverse People​​​​​​​

25 Jul 17
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This blog has been put together by Ian from the Multicultural Problem Gambling Service (MPGS) in NSW, which is funded by the NSW Government, for the delivery of free and confidential help to problem gamblers and their families, from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds across the state of NSW. Ian is a Clinical Consultant with the Multicultural Problem Gambling Service for NSW. You can find out more about the service here.

Counselling

What can I expect in a Counselling environment?

For a person who was born into and/or grew up in a Westernised society, the notion of counselling is familiar. However, for one who has recently migrated or was not raised in such an environment, the idea and practice of counselling can be alien. To the unfamiliar, counselling appears to be having a dialogue with a “stranger” and just talk – nothing could be further from the truth.

Through the process of dialogue, the counsellor assists by addressing the presenting problems in a way that clarifies the issues, explores options, develops strategies and increases self-awareness. For some, it is helpful to tell their story and speak their mind to someone who is unrelated, objective, and nonjudgmental. Counsellors are bound by a professional code of ethics that entails all discussion with the client to be private and confidential. Nonetheless, an exception arises when a counsellor has a duty of care to report something that threatens your wellbeing or the wellbeing of others.

Family support and counselling, such as that provided by Gambling Help services, can assist by discussing ways in which the family member(s) can help a person who is gambling excessively, and help them to support their loved one who is trying to stop or reduce problematic gambling behaviour. Such services provide assistance to families during tough times through information and education, one-on-one (individual) counselling or counselling in a group.

If…

English is not your first language

  • You are concerned about the impact of your culture on gambling behaviour
  • You would rather choose to express yourself freely in your mother tongue
  • You know someone who has a gambling problem and does not speak English, don’t let language prevent you, your loved one, or someone you know, from accessing the help needed.
  1. Call Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 and ask to talk to Gambling Helpline in the language required.
  2. TIS will call Gambling Helpline on behalf of the caller. A call to TIS is the cost of a local call from landlines (additional charges apply for mobiles).

To find out more

Multicultural Problem Gambling Service for NSW (MPGS) – counselling, treatment and support services, and resources downloadable in various languages for problem gamblers from culturally and linguistically diverse communities living in NSW and their families.
Telephone: 1800 856 800.

If you are from another state you can find out about services for culturally and linguistically diverse people in your state here or you can call 1800 858 858 for some assistance.

How does gambling impact children?

18 Jul 17
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This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.

Children

Many people who want to change their gambling say they are worried about the impact it has on the children in their lives.

When a family member or someone they live with has a problem with gambling, children who are close to the situation may be affected.

For example, children may become confused about what is happening to an adult close to them who is acting out of character. The house may be neglected and become untidy, clothes may not be washed and meals may be missed.  Sometimes the adult may spend extended periods of time away or their interest seems to be elsewhere.

Children can be impacted in different ways including:

  1. Coping Strategies – if an adult close to them is gambling to relieve stress or boredom, it can model to the child that gambling is a way to deal with problems i.e. you need to win money to pay bills. In the future, the child may do the same thing, rather than facing the issue head on. When big challenges come along in in their life, they may turn to gambling which can make things more difficult.
  1. Exposure to conflict – problematic gambling can result in conflict in the home. This may be due to increased stress from lack of finances, and issues of trust. Children who are exposed to high amounts of conflict may find it difficult to express emotions in an appropriate way. Sometimes this will be seen in behavioural problems, not doing so well at school or withdrawing from family life. There is a strong link between gambling and family violence, with around one third of people with gambling problems reporting being victims or perpetrators of family violence (Dowling, 2014).
  1. Less Resources – unmanaged gambling can go hand in hand with financial stress, and children can feel the impact of this. This may be due to there being less money for fun items and in some cases, even necessities. Growing up in an environment where there is financial instability can also impact a child’s sense of security and stability.
  1. Quality of Relationships – When caught up in a gambling problem, people may be less present and available. One of the biggest predictors of a child’s wellbeing is the quality of the relationship with adults who are close to them. Many people find that the time that they spend focusing on gambling means they have less time to interact with people around them, including children. This can be confusing and upsetting for kids, who don’t necessarily understand why they aren’t receiving attention.

Children by nature, can be quite resilient. Hopefully with time and care you will all be able to get back on track. Many people find they are deeply motivated by their children’s needs and it might be helpful to reflect on some of the impacts your gambling could be having on the children close to you and whether this may be motivation for change.

If you find that a child close to you is being affected, it might be helpful to call Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858.

Calling the helpline means you will be able to speak with a trained counsellor who can give you some confidential and free advice about how to manage this impact, and to engage you with some support for yourself.

There are also free financial counsellors who can help you develop some strategies to address your financial concerns or relationship counsellors who can help you begin to address any family impacts of your gambling.

People with gambling problems are more likely than people without gambling problems to be victims and perpetrators of intimate partner violence. If you would like some support with this please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732).

Dowling, N., Suomi, A., Jackson, A., Lavis, T., Patford, J., Cockman, S., … Abbott, M. (2014). Problem Gambling and Intimate Partner Violence: A systematic review and Meta-Analysis. Trauma, Violence, and Abuse, p. 1-19.http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1524838014561269

Really feel your feelings to help change your gambling

11 Jul 17
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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.

Thinking and feeling

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.

An example

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.

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