Dealing With Gambling Problems


Gambling is an activity in which people wager something of value on the outcome of a random event, such as a lottery or sports match. Most adults have placed a bet at some point, but for some people gambling can become a serious problem. Unlike most other addictions, it can impact all aspects of a person’s life including their relationships, performance at work or school, and health. Problem gambling can also lead to debt and even homelessness.

Those with an addictive gambling habit may hide their activity from others, feel secretive about it, and lie about how much they are spending or winning. They often continue to gamble, despite the negative consequences and may increase their bets in the hope of recouping lost money. This behaviour is often accompanied by other psychological symptoms such as low self-esteem, depression and anxiety. Some people with a gambling problem will try to control their spending by cutting back, but if they find it difficult to manage on their own, they can seek professional help.

There are a number of treatment options for those with gambling problems, including cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and motivational interviewing. With CBT, a therapist can teach you tools to identify faulty thoughts such as thinking you’re ‘due to win’ after a losing streak, and help you learn how to respond more constructively. During motivational interviewing, a therapist can help you explore your ambivalence about change and identify other factors that may be contributing to your problem.

In addition to these therapeutic techniques, there are also a number of practical strategies that can be used to reduce the amount of time and money you spend gambling. For example, it can be helpful to create a budget and stick to it. This will ensure you are not tempted to use your credit cards or borrow money to gamble, and can help you prevent a relapse if you do lapse. Another helpful strategy is to avoid going out to casinos and other gambling venues, or at least limit how long you stay there. You can also use a money-tracking app or remove the credit card information from your phone or computer, so it cannot autofill when you visit gambling websites.

Other ways to cope with boredom and stress include exercising, socialising with friends who don’t gamble, or trying new hobbies and activities. If you have a hard time reducing your gambling habits on your own, consider joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which is modelled on the 12-step recovery program for alcoholics. If you are a student, you can access online support through AcademicLiveCare, which allows CU Boulder students to book and attend virtual counselling and psychiatry appointments. This service is free for all students, staff and faculty, and can be accessed from anywhere with an internet connection.