How to Stop Gambling

Gambling addiction is a serious problem that can result in significant consequences, including financial losses, strained personal relationships, and mental health decline. While gambling often starts as a fun hobby for most people, it can quickly develop into an unhealthy obsession.

If you think you have a gambling addiction, are starting to develop one, or simply want to stop gambling to save money, it’s important to seek help immediately and start taking steps to curb your gambling habit. By acknowledging and addressing the problem, you can stop gambling and minimize the impact your gambling addiction has on your life.

Here are a few tips to keep in mind to stop gambling.

What Does Gambling Addiction Look Like?

Gambling addiction is an impulse-control disorder that makes it difficult for individuals to control their urge to gamble. Even when gambling starts to have a negative impact on your personal life, you may find it incredibly difficult to stop.

You may have a gambling addiction if you:

  • Have an uncontrollable urge to gamble
  • Continue to gamble even when you can’t afford to lose
  • Are unable to take breaks from gambling
  • Borrow money from others to continue gambling
  • Feel restless when not gambling
  • Have an urge to gamble with larger amounts of money
  • Feel the need to be secretive about your gambling habit

Gambling can still be an issue even if you don’t have a gambling addiction. Problem gambling includes any gambling behavior that interrupts your life. If you find yourself spending too much time gambling, betting too much money, or gambling despite negative consequences, you may have a gambling problem.

Myths & Facts about Gambling Problems

There are many myths surrounding gambling addiction that individuals often use to justify their problematic behavior. Understanding why these myths are wrong can make it easier to recognize when you have a problematic gambling habit.

Myth: You have to gamble every day to have a gambling addiction.

While gambling addiction often involves consistent gambling, this isn’t always the case. Even if you don’t gamble every day, you may still have a gambling problem if your gambling habit results in any negative consequences in your personal life.

Myth: Gambling addiction only affects people who are irresponsible.

Many people don’t think they will develop a gambling addiction because they see themselves as responsible individuals who can control their behavior. However, assuming you aren’t vulnerable to addiction is dangerous, as it makes you less likely to recognize when you are starting to develop a problem. Gambling addiction can affect anyone.

Myth: Gambling addiction isn’t an issue if you can afford it.

It can be easy to justify your gambling addiction if it isn’t causing any financial hardship, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t impacting your personal relationships and career. Gambling addiction is a serious issue that can cause a wide range of personal issues even if you can afford your losses.

How to Stop Gambling

Man at desk

If you recognize that your gambling habit has become problematic, it’s time to start taking steps to move away from gambling altogether.

Here are six tips to keep in mind to help you stop gambling.

Find healthier alternatives to gambling

One of the most effective ways to quit gambling for good is to replace it with healthier hobbies that satisfy the same cravings as gambling.

For example, if you enjoy gambling for the thrill and excitement that it can provide, you might consider replacing your gambling habit with a sport or active hobby, like rock climbing, mountain biking, touch football, or a similar activity.

If your gambling problem is a result of emotional distress, or you gamble to distract yourself from unpleasant feelings, you may benefit from therapy or counseling.

For individuals who gamble due to boredom or loneliness, you might consider volunteering with local organizations or joining a club related to your interests to meet new people.

Filling your time with healthy hobbies is a great way to keep yourself occupied and avoid the urge to gamble.

Join a support group

Recognizing your gambling problem is the first step toward recovery. After acknowledging the problem, one of the best things you can do is seek help from a support group.

Support groups are generally organized and maintained by others who have experience with gambling addiction and problem gambling, making them uniquely qualified to help you overcome your gambling issues. Support groups are generally free to join and can offer the support you need to maintain recovery after quitting gambling.

Gamblers Anonymous is a popular support group for individuals with gambling problems. Like Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous uses the 12-step program to help members conquer their gambling addictions.

To find more local resources and support groups, you can contact the National Council on Problem Gambling hotline at 1-800-522-4700.

Avoid triggers

An effective way to deal with any addiction is to avoid places and situations that encourage you to participate in the activity you are trying to avoid. Anything that tempts you to gamble is known as a “trigger,” and by avoiding triggers, you can more effectively avoid the urge to gamble.

For example, if your drive to work involves passing by a casino, you might consider finding an alternative route to help you avoid thinking about gambling every day during your commute. If watching sports makes you want to place bets, you might consider finding something else to watch during your free time.

Moreover, while it may seem harsh, if you have any friends you only know through gambling, it may be best for you to avoid spending time with them as long as they continue to gamble.

Dealing with gambling cravings

After quitting gambling, it’s normal to feel the urge to gamble. But as you continue to build healthier habits and learn how to deal with gambling cravings, you’ll be able to resist these urges and maintain your recovery.

There are several methods you can use to deal with gambling cravings, including:

  • Calling a friend or family member to spend time with until the urge to gamble passes.
  • Telling yourself you’ll wait at least an hour to gamble. This is called “postponing” and is often an effective way to deal with temporary urges.
  • Visualizing the consequences of gambling. Consider how you’ll feel after gambling and what consequences you may face after gambling.
  • Going to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting to discuss your cravings with others who can understand your issues.
  • Distracting yourself with another activity, like going to a movie, exercising, meditating, painting, or reading.

Cravings can be very intense, and at times may feel impossible to avoid. But these urges always pass, and if you can find a way to effectively distract yourself whenever you feel the urge to gamble, you can maintain your recovery.

Consider the consequences

If you’re trying to stay away from gambling, it can be helpful to remind yourself of the consequences.

Consider the financial hardships that gambling can cause, and consider how much more financially stable you are when not gambling.

You should also think about the impact your gambling addiction can have on your friends and family members. Gambling addiction doesn’t just affect you — it can also cause significant emotional pain to your loved ones.

By reflecting on the potential consequences of gambling, you’re less likely to return to gambling as you realize how your life has improved since stopping.

Seek professional help

Overcoming gambling addiction can be incredibly difficult, and if you’re having trouble stopping gambling on your own, you may need to seek professional help to address your gambling issues.

There are several options for individuals who need professional help, including inpatient rehabilitation programs, cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy, and credit counseling. If underlying conditions like depression, anxiety, or ADHD are contributing to your gambling addiction, you may need to seek help for these issues as well.

As mentioned, you can call the National Council on Problem Gambling hotline at 1-800-522-4700 to find information about local resources to help you overcome your gambling addiction.