Gambling can be highly addictive as it stimulates the brain’s reward system. Every win triggers dopamine release – the same chemical we experience when leveling up in video games or receiving likes on Facebook. But unlike many other addictions, compulsive gambling doesn’t usually revolve around money; oftentimes it’s about escaping negative emotions such as sadness or stress. However, there are steps you can take to help stop online gambling altogether.
Assuming you have a gambling problem is the first step toward seeking assistance, followed by finding solutions such as self-exclusion from online gambling sites or blocking apps on computers and smartphones, or seeking therapy from mental health professionals or addiction counselors who can help develop coping strategies to assist in breaking free of this addiction.
As well as recognizing and avoiding triggers – situations or emotions that encourage gambling – it’s also essential to identify and avoid triggers, which include situations or emotions that encourage gambling. For example, if your commute to work takes you past casinos, take an alternative route or switch channels if sports betting shows catch your attention. Alternatively, find healthier ways of spending your time like exercising, engaging in hobbies, or spending quality time with family and friends.
Setting financial goals, like paying down your credit card debt or restricting bank withdrawals, can also help. Peers support is also available through programs like Gamblers Anonymous (modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous). Finally, seeking treatment for mood disorders such as depression and anxiety will not only help control gambling habits but may decrease urges to gamble as a coping mechanism.
Maintain a gambling diary as another helpful way of tracking and monitoring your habits. Write down every time you gamble and then look back to understand where your mistakes lie; use it also as a means of monitoring progress as you try to overcome gambling addiction. Lastly, it’s important to remember that no matter your opinion of their gambling behavior, no one else can force someone else out of gambling; respect their wishes regardless if you feel it is harming their life; however you can encourage them to seek help while being supportive friends or loved ones if any mention of suicide arises due to high suicide risk among those living with gambling disorders.