During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been warnings that people suffering from gambling-related problems may be more severely impacted by the coronavirus due to many health risks related to gambling addiction. This puts the focus on how compulsive gaming impacts not only the financial and social aspects of a person’s life but also their overall medical status. Early intervention is necessary to prevent compulsive gaming from developing to the destructive stage of gambling addiction. As people have been and still are, under lockdown in their own homes, isolating them from co-workers, extended family, and friends, as well as making it more difficult to reach out to get professional help, the risk of domestic violence, drug abuse, and gambling addiction is very high. Another problem is that many who have never gambled online before have now found easy ways to log in and gamble online instead of driving to the nearest, now closed, gambling venue. New accounts are easy to open and it can very quickly get out of control. For someone within the risk zone of developing a gambling addiction this is a very challenging and dangerous time.
Compulsive gambling is a disorder tied to the inability to control one’s impulse or urge to gamble. Problem gamblers tend to completely disregard the effects of their obsessive and repetitive actions on their own person or the people around them. An addict will never stop wagering, no matter if he or she can afford to lose money or not. They will lie, deceive, steal, and keep borrowing money just to keep fueling their addiction. Seeking treatment is difficult, given the fact that the first step is admitting to having a problem and this does not come easy for most people.
Self-help is, therefore, mandatory and it must come naturally and be used together with a recovery program managed and supervised by a trained clinician.
Online and offline self-help groups and individual recovery efforts can also speed up recovery. Finding good alternatives for problem gambling can help smoothen things.
Here are a few useful ideas you could take into consideration if you or someone you know is dealing with unhealthy gambling issues.
1. Identify and Recognize the Problem
Start by reading and learning about gambling addiction. A first step should be to honestly answer the 20 questions on this self-assessment test http://www.gamblersanonymous.org/ga/content/20-questions.
Follow the advice you get by the results from the assessment and use the option to talk anonymously with a professional about your situation. Someone who has the experience, either personally or professionally, will see signs you may be denying yourself. The next step should be to identify all of the triggers that are making you feel the need to gamble. One of the most common triggers is conflicts with a partner and these tend to increase as we are forced to be together during social isolation.
Pay attention to how you feel. Gambling probably used to make you feel relaxed, entertained, happy, and engaged in your spare time but when the fun turns into compulsive behavior, the feeling of fun is very short-lived. Also, if you feel a change in your mood or behavior now when your gaming abilities may be restricted due to the lockdown you should take this as a serious sign of a potential gambling problem. Profound feelings of anxiety, depression, and stress every time you feel the urge to gamble but can’t – is a sign you should get professional help!
2. Make Alternative Choices
Good-Feeling activities: Figure out what other activities have the same effect on you as gambling, walk your dog, go for a jog, meditate, listen to your favorite music or watch a movie instead. This technique is efficient at an early stage of gambling problems.
Keep yourself busy: If you like to gamble but know you easily get carried away then make sure you always have something fun and engaging planned in your spare time, on the weekends, or after work. During the pandemic this is not easy, especially for people forced to isolation. Basically, you need to find alternatives and if all your time is filled with other interesting activities, you can escape your urge to gamble more easily.
Finding a new passion or hobby may sound trivial but it can make a real difference. It can be anything that you find pleasure in or something you have shown the smallest interest in. Go on an adventurous trip every weekend, buy hiking gear, get a subscription to a public swimming pool and go swimming every day, adopt a dog and keep yourself busy every second of your spare time. Anything that gives you pleasure keeps you busy, makes you forget about your desire to gamble non-stop, gives you inner peace or beefs up your adrenaline levels is good to do, as long as it is legal and moral, of course.
Spend more quality time with your loved ones: If your gambling is triggered by various frustrations or chronic stress, finding a good substitute that can also eliminate these triggering factors will considerably speed up your recovery. Loneliness and poor-quality human relationships could also trigger unhealthy gambling habits. Spending more time with your family, friends and loved ones, bonding and creating stronger connections should also help you better cope with your problem gambling and make recovery a palpable thing.
Understand your boundaries: If you are having trouble tackling your personal life, the stress from the lockdown or career path, seek help from the outside! If you never say no, use boundaries, learn to delegate responsibility and learn when and how to say “no”.
Budget and financial control: You also need to have access to money in order to gamble. Make sure someone else becomes responsible for your finances, schedule automatic bill payments, and close all your online casino accounts if needed. Lots of casinos will also allow you to limit your presence and wagering on their sites. Self-exclusion is also possible both online and offline, so make sure you use it. If you are just starting to play online you should take some preventive actions already from start to make sure you don’t get carried away. Read this article about bankroll management https://www.gamblersbet.com/blog/bankroll-management and make sure to stay within your limits! If you, or someone close to you, believe your gambling is out of control then you should uninstall all gambling apps from your smartphone and use computer restriction options to avoid accessing your favorite casinos and gambling platforms on the web.
3. Get Help
Ask for help, acknowledge the potential consequences of your gambling and force yourself to get help. Pick up the phone and text or call a close friend or family member and let them know that you feel the impulse to gamble.
Believing it’s enough if you manage to stop thinking about gambling is actually a sign of you already having problems with gambling that requires professional help!