It’s easier to gamble than ever before, with online casinos and sportsbooks enabling action from your own home. However, there is also an ever-increasing amount of help available to gamblers, too. Operators are finally starting to take their own responsibilities seriously, and there are independent resources available to you wherever you are.
Previous articles in our Play Safer series have talked a lot about preventing gambling addiction, but those efforts aren’t infallible. People continue to experience harm from compulsive gambling, particularly as legalization and social acceptance spread across the map.
So where should you turn if you find yourself losing the ability to control your gambling behavior? Fortunately, there’s plenty of help available.
Monitor your own gambling early-warning systems
It’s important to remember that you’re always going to be the first line of defense against gambling-related harm. The best software or pit boss in the world can’t read your intentions, and external help too often arrives only after a problem has already materialized. You’re the canary in your own coal mine.
We’ll forego the lecture about making good choices while you’re gambling and instead keep the advice simple.
Pay attention to yourself. Pay attention to the little warning signs that you’re aware of within your own behavior, because you’re the first person who’ll spot them. You might be the only person who’ll spot them, initially. Pay attention to your mood. Does gambling make you irritable or stressed out? That might be a sign that it’s time to revisit your reasons for playing in the first place. It’s supposed to be fun, after all. Are you still having fun?
If you feel like you might be developing a gambling problem, there’s a reasonable chance that you already have one. It’s like the runny nose that foretells the flu. You may not be able to fix the problem on your own, but you have to be the first one to identify it.
Your friends and family are your closest allies
One of the first symptoms of any addiction tends to be a pulling-away from the people closest to you. The sense of shame that comes from a loss of self-control can make it hard to admit to others that you have a problem, even when you recognize it yourself.
That’s true for gambling addiction too, and it’s counterproductive.
Whether it feels like it or not, you absolutely can turn to the people around you for help with your gambling habits. Your friends and family care about you even when you falter – even when you forget to tend to your own wellbeing. That’s an incredible asset in the fight. Your loved ones are also the most likely people to be impacted by your compulsion to gamble, giving them plenty of incentive to intervene.
Everyone has somebody in their life that they can tell their deepest secrets to. Use that person. Tell them you’re struggling with something.
Therapists are behavioral health professionals
There are also medical professionals who literally dedicate their lives to helping people that struggle with compulsive gambling. Given their expertise in the matter, it seems objectively wise to seek out their help.
Some people still bristle up at the notion of counseling or therapy, though, and it’s partially understandable. Asking for help requires a certain admission of your own shortcomings, and our own pride often drives us to avoid a confrontation. Nobody likes to admit they might have messed up.
But addiction is just like any other ailment. You wouldn’t think twice about seeing a doctor for a serious injury, but you may for some reason feel reluctant to seek help with a behavioral problem. Stop splitting these conditions into different categories. Your health is your health, and you wouldn’t set a broken bone or perform cardiac surgery on yourself.
The cost of professional therapy can vary widely, but there are a number of ways to mitigate the cost. Many large insurance providers offer (at least) partial reimbursement for counseling sessions, and some employers even offer a wellness stipend that can be applied to treatment. There’s public support available too, which we’ll get to in a moment.
Even considering the price of counseling, weighing the cost of treatment versus the cost of gambling may give you a different perspective on the expense.
Support hotlines are like first responders for gambling addiction
We could urge until our fingers fall off, but seeking therapy can still be a tall step to take of your own volition. But there are some less-imposing forms of treatment available too – and for free.
Calling a gambling support hotline is the easiest first step if you’re not ready to reach out to someone in-person. Or maybe you’re not even sure if your gambling has become problematic, but you just need a safe space to talk to somebody about it.
These hotline services can offer additional information and resources as you’re ready, including referrals to local treatment programs in your area. They’re judgment-free zones. And in the event you’re dealing with a real crisis in the moment, they can provide direct counseling on the spot too. A number of jurisdictions even have live support available via online chat.
There is help wherever you are. The list below is not exhaustive and if you can’t find help where you are, try putting ‘help with gambling’ and your region into Google.
United States of America
National Council on Problem Gambling – 1-800-522-4700
California Council on Problem Gambling – 1-800-426-2537
Florida Council on Compulsive Gambling – 888-ADMIT-IT
Massachusetts Council on Compulsive Gambling – 1-800-426-1234
Nevada Council on Problem Gambling – 1-800-522-4700
New Mexico Council on Problem Gambling – 1-800-572-1142
New York Council on Problem Gambling – 1-877-846-7369
Smart Recovery – 440-951-5357
GamCare – 0808 8020 133
Gambling helpline – 1800-858-858
GambleAware – New South Wales
Gambling Impact Society – New South Wales
Gambling Help Online – Queensland & Western Australia
Office for Problem Gambling Gambling – South Australia
Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation – Victoria
Gluecksspielsucht Problem Gambling Hotline – 0800 0776611
Caritas A G Counselling Centre – (852) 1834 633
AGOG – 0900-2177721
Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand Helpline – 0800 664 262
Hjelpelinjen Helpline – 800 800 40
Responsible Gambling Foundation – 0800 006 008
Stodlinjen – 020-81 91 00
Careplay – 041 367 48 47
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