“At the start my relationship with gambling was good!” We hear this from lots of people who are trying to change their gambling behaviour, but when did this relationship change?
For some people gambling can be an enjoyable pastime, but for others gambling is no longer fun as they have lost control. It is not unusual to be unaware of when this change happened as they become immersed in it.
Often we can only see when the change happened when we look back with new insight, however there are some common themes we see from people who are changing.
Stories from people who have changed:
Samantha initially enjoyed gambling on the Pokies with her partner:
‘I started gambling at the pokies after having dinner at the club with my partner. We initially enjoyed putting our change in the pokies and having some fun together.
After a while gambling became a routine and we would just sit on our own and press the buttons and the excitement seemed to have gone except for the few wins now and then.
When we broke up, I would go there to gamble during the week on my own. It was somewhere to go rather than siting home alone. I started spending more and more time and money there, and one day I realised that I had been there every night for a week – that is when I realised I had a problem.’
Alex initially enjoyed a punt at the TAB but after a while, he noticed his gambling was becoming a problem:
‘I used to really look forward to going to the TAB with my friends when we were at the pub. Work became more stressful and I started going by myself, sometimes at lunchtime.
After a while I was going most days, and spending more than I could afford – after a while, it became about winning the money back, rather than having a wind down or a laugh.’
Both Samantha and Alex experienced a change in their relationship with gambling, taking it from a pastime to a routine part of their lives and eventually becoming a habit.
This experience is not unusual as we often hear from people that have become absorbed in their gambling.
Many people get to a stage where they are chasing the winning feeling or trying to make up their losses. They haven’t noticed that they have lost the enjoyment and it has become a problem.
If you think your relationship with gambling is changing it may to be time to take a break!
Some signs to look for:
- Is gambling taking priority over other things in your life?
- Do you spend more time gambling than you mean to?
- Are people commenting on how much you are gambling?
- Are you missing other things to gamble instead?
- Have you seen an impact on your finances?
- Do you not buy things you need so that you can gamble instead?
If you say yes to any of these questions it might be time to evaluate where you are at and have a chat with someone.
It can be difficult finding out you have may have a problem with gambling and it’s natural that at first you may feel disappointed or even upset.
But by reading this BLOG you have taken a positive step towards changing your gambling behaviour. The good news is that lots of people have quit gambling and have a better life.
Developing a change plan
Having a plan in place can make it easier to get yourself started.
Step 1 - List all the positives of quitting your gambling so you can remind yourself if you need a boost.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- More money in your bank
- More time for your self and with your family
- Feelings of relief as you take charge of your life
- Improved health and wellbeing as you are not sitting for long periods gambling
Step 2 - Think about strategies you can try to change your gambling.
- Make plans for times when you would go gambling.
- Limit your money; only take enough cash with you to get you through the day.
- Tell someone you trust about the change you are making, who can help support you.
- Find strategies that help you with stress or boredom so that you don’t find yourself gambling.
- Create a diary for the week ahead so that you have a plan and can log where you are at.
Step 3 - find some different activities you enjoy, that can you give you purpose.
- Try a new sport or craft activity.
- Catching up with friends.
- Walking on the beach or along a river.
- Cooking nice meals.
- Tackling the house work it can give you a great sense of satisfaction.
Why not allocate some enjoyable activities in your diary so you have a plan of action.
For other ideas check out:
Support is important
Support is very important when starting to make a change, why not reach out to someone you trust or a professional trained to help people trying to change their gambling.
Remember lapses are normal and can happen at any time when you are trying to stop gambling. Its normal to have a few setbacks as you make the commitment to change your behaviour. Use these setbacks as learning to help make you stronger for the next time you are feeling vulnerable to gamble.
If you would like to speak to a gambling counsellor about this, or if you have any questions about accessing free, face to face counselling have a chat with one of our counsellors.
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.
“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?
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
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.
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:
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.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
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:
- Environmental gambling triggers
- The presence of an urge to gamble
- Unrealistic thoughts about gambling such as a belief in luck
- 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:
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.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
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.
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.
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.
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:
There is also help available from an experienced gambling counsellor call Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak confidentially about your gambling.
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.
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.
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.
- Call Translation and Interpreting Service (TIS National) on 131 450 and ask to talk to Gambling Helpline in the language required.
- 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.
This blog article first appeared on Counsellor Sam and has been republished with full permission.
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:
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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
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.
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 –