Although there is no substitute for professional help, here are some simple and practical measures to reduce gambling:
1. Limit the amount of money you spend gambling
- Set a limit from the start on how much you are willing to spend on gambling in a session or in a week. Stick to it!
- Leave credit/cash cards at home when you go out to gamble.
- If you use a betting account, ask them to place a limit on it - say £50 - this works for online casinos too!
- On pay day, aim to pay all your priority debts first (mortgage, rent, council tax, food, etc...)
2. Reduce the amount of time and days that you gamble
- Set yourself a limit on how many times a week you will gamble (e.g. twice a week) - be specific and name the days.
- Avoid those "I'll just have a quick go" scenarios.
- You can set your alarm on your watch or phone to remind you - even your PC will have a calendar reminder alert you can use.
3. Don't view gambling as a way of making money
- Always remember that you are buying entertainment.
- Always be prepared to lose - if you win, know that it will happen by chance.
- Never spend your savings or investments on gambling.
- Ask friends and family not to lend you money if you ask them.
4. Spend time doing other activities
- Spend more time with family or friends.
- Take up a new hobby or interest or revisit one that you enjoyed before gambling took over.
- Join a social group or organise events with friends who don't gamble.
- Talk to other about your worries or concerns rather than 'bottling' them up.
Where can I get help?
All of the following provide free support to help you cut down or stop gambling:
- NHS: The CNWL National Problem Gambling Clinic in London has doctors, nurses, therapists, psychologists, debt counsellors and family therapists with special experience in helping problem gamblers.
- Gamcare - runs the national HelpLine and its online equivalent, the NetLine, to offer help and support for people with a gambling problem, their family and friends. GamCare also provides face-to-face online counselling in many parts of the UK.
- The Gordon Moody Association - a charity which provides treatment and housing for problem gamblers.
- The 12 step meetings of Gamblers Anonymous.
- Gamanon: groups for relatives of problem gamblers.
What sort of help is there?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT)
Research has shown that CBT can:
- reduce the number of days a person gambles
- reduce the amount of money they lose
- help a gambler to stay away from gambling once they have stopped.
How does CBT work?
If you are a problem gambler, you will think differently from other people about your betting. You will tend to believe that:
- you are more likely to win than you would expect by chance;
- in a game with random numbers, like roulette, certain numbers are more likely to come up than others;
- winning twice in a row means that you are on a 'winning streak' – so you bet larger and larger sums;
- you are more likely to win at a game of chance if you are familiar with it;
- certain rituals can bring you luck;
- having lost, you can somehow win back your losses by gambling more.
CBT is given in around 10 one-hour sessions. The sessions focus on these ways of thinking, but also on how you feel and behave when you want to bet or when you are gambling.
CBT helps you to work out more helpful ways of thinking and behaving. A diary helps you to keep track of your improvement. In the months following treatment, follow-up CBT sessions in a group seem to help people stay away from gambling longer.
How does CBT compare with other treatments?
We don’t know yet - there have not been enough large studies to be clear about this.
12 Step Programmes
This is an approach which assumes that a dependence on drink or gambling is a disease, and that the best people to support you are those who have had similar experiences.
Regular meetings are held in which people can share the problems they have had and the ways in which they have overcome them.
They also have a 'buddy' system, where each member has another member whom they can contact if they feel that they are about to drink or gamble again.
The 12 Step Fellowship, Gamblers Anonymous, offers meetings throughout the UK and many problem gamblers find these meetings helpful. You may also need practical help:
- managing your debts
- dealing with family problems
- treat other psychological/psychiatric problems, e.g. depression.
No medication is licensed for the treatment of problem gambling in the UK, but antidepressants can be prescribed to help with low mood.
What if I don’t get help?
About a third of problem gamblers will recover on their own, without treatment, and about 2 in 3 will continue to have problems, which tend to get worse.