Compulsive gambling affects many people in different ways. Some people are affected immediately while others develop the habit over a period of time. Interstingly, very few people would continue to gamble if they lost regularly during their first few attempts. But, those who establish an early pattern of compulsion have usually experienced a very large win during their early gambling episodes and often spend the next few years trying to repeat the experience.
This pattern of behaviour is known as "chasing" and is most dangerous, as the gambler not only loses themselves to escapism, but is on a mission of trying to win more money. They have forgotten when they won initially and are not satisfied with making up the gap. They are now reinvesting every dollar and playing  to win even more.

Gambling patterns and triggers

There are many faces of gambling and a host of venues designed to attract patrons in a very subtle way. These include pokies, betting agencies, telephone/pub betting, casinos, and internet/cyber gambling. Most of the venues are designed to entice you to bet extensively and on just about everything. They decor is quite often very glamorous and can make you feel that you are actually at the racetrack or sporting event. However, the fact is that you may have the occasional win but sooner or later you will give it all back.

It is almost impossible to survive a day without being exposed to some form of inducement to gamble. Gambling advertising promotes the entertainment aspects and prospects of winning without showing that the real odds are against the gambler. A number of the top rating TV and radio shows are heavily sponsered by casinos and pokies venues. Advertisements are frequently displayed in newspapers and played several times on a daily basis.

These are all gambling triggers and are on the increase. They are a means to stimulate the same rush of adrenaline and anticipation of gambling just one more time. Therefore, you need to learn how to resist them and see them as negatives rather than inducements. You have to be constantly alert to the allurement of advertising.

Advertising is aimed at subliminally impacting on your senses. It is targeted specifically at you and designed to attract you personally. You must be constantly on your guard against all forms of advertising and promotional activities, but don't be too despondent if you have been enticed to gamble once again. While there are pokies and betting agencies at every turn, it is easier to to go past an unknown venue than one in which you have spent hours in the past. If you know you will be tempted by signs outside your favorite spot, then take a different route.

If you can bring about psychological, physical, and spiritual changes, you will be more equipped to stop gambling and realise you are gradually regaining your life. Your personal relationships will improve, you will become more focused, and you will start to pay off some of your debts and actually get ahead. Indeed, you will like this new found confidence because that enormous feeling of anxiety will have diminished. You may even notice that you are feeling happy and motivated because you have regained your self-esteem. Although you still have a long way to go, you have already set your mind to gaining control.

Why people gamble to excess

There are many underlying issues that result in people turning to gambling. These include grief, loneliness, boredom, abuse, fear, exploitation, anger, failure (or fear of it), breakdown in relationships, just to name a few.  

Loneliness/boredom/lack of social interaction

Most problem gamblers often feel lonely and/or bored because they have found themselves with excessive time on their hands. This has eventuated either because they have lost interest in participating activities they previously enjoyed or they couldn't afford to continue activities because of the excess gambling. Contact with friends is usually lost because they prefer their own company in the gambling venue or were left with insufficient funds to allow for group activities.

Loneliness for some may result from an emotional or physical state that has led to low self-esteem or lack of confidence. Individuals may feel trapped inside and may have great difficulty in reaching out to others. Therefore, it becomes easier to visit the track, casino, pokies, or betting agency than to find a more fulfilling activity. As with other people who are escaping from their underlying issues, you are handing your money straight over to the owners of these venues. Hence, they are becomming richer and enjoying wealthier lifestyles, while you are allowing yourself to be locked in your own private world with limited funds.  And, you are having little contact with people who could broaden your horizons.


If you have been a victim of any form of abuse, then time and great personal effort will required to work through your pain. However, if you choose to live in your painful past and relive all the negative situations and conditions that occurred then, you will stay stuck there. There are many avenues to rid yourself of these painful thoughts, including services provided by private consultants and government support agencies. The act of sharing your problems with a health professional helps to bring the problem to the fore and promote change.

Don't allow the pain of the past to influence how you live in the present. Make a conscious effort not to blame yourself for what you did, did not do, or could have done better. when you turn to gambling, you are only masking the pain. If you have carried unresolved pain throughout your life, now may be the right time to seek help. Ask your general practitioner to arrange a referral to an appropriate person or organisation. You can find someone in the Yellow Pages but make sure they are accredited by a recognised body. There are also a number of community-based programs tailored to address your specific need. If you feel uncomfortable with any practitioner during a counselling session, discontinue the session and don't let this experience deter you from seeking help from another source. More information can be found in the Recovery Plans/Surviving Abuse or Links/Surviving Abuse sections.


One of most difficult situations to experience is unemployment. Trying hard to find a job of any description may leave you feeling bored, unfulfilled, and low in self-esteem. This could cause you to hesitate to apply for positions which you are suitably qualified. In this case, you are extremely vulnerable as you have more time on your hands and may feel the urge to gamble. You could be even chasing money to make up the shortfall between your unemployment benefits and what you actually require to survive. Consequently, lack of funds and reduced motivation will prevent you from grooming yourself adequately before presenting for an interview. Therefore, from today set some goals and revisit the employment agencies. Be aware that there may well be several people who want the same position and you have to present well if you are to be considered as a prospective employee. Take your personal grooming into consideration and always think carefully about what to wear to the agency or next job interview.

If you are constantly unsuccessful in obtaining employment, you may need to reconsider the area you are applying for. If your age is a barrier, then face the fact head on and try to see it from the employer's perspective. It's now a fact of life, that many companies are with a view to employing a staff member to see it into the next fifteen years and beyond. Therefore, you are better to change your attitude to that of "where else can I apply my skills to enable me to receive a good return for my efforts and walk away at the end of the day knowing that I have done a good job and have been respected for my talents?"

For those who have no particular training or have left school at a very young age, it is possible to try some of the training schemes that are available through government departments. It is never too late to return to study so don't let age be a deterrent to changing your direction. The choice is yours and don't expect anybody else to do it for you - it's up to you.

Unfulfilling personal relationships

Maybe your relationship with your partner or another member of your family has broken down or you are experiencing communication difficulties. This is an extremely stressful situation as it is an ongoing anxiety. You may believe that gambling eases this pain but your actions can be actually adding to the problem. When you are gambling to excess you personality changes and your adrenaline level is high. Very often your partner or loved one will observe this the minute you make contact with them. Therefore, you cannot expect them to react positively when they know that you have gambled again.

If you have a situation where your partner or family member is causing you pain, even if you cannot change the situation, you can change the way you are dealing with it. For example, you can offer to apy for therapy or counselling, but unless he/she is prepared to apply some personal efforts, your effort will be to no avail. Turning to gambling will only mask your pain and reduce your ability to cope with any serious situations. Therefore, you require all the physical, psychologial, and spiritual resources you can muster to assist you through these difficult times.


Anyone who has suffered the loss of a loved one knows the intense pain that follows. You cannot bring that person back physically, but you can learn to think about him/her in a way that will actually bring peace and joy to you. If faced with the recent death of a loved one, time will be needed to help you heal. However, don't travel this journey alone as there are many forms of help available to you (see Links/Grief & Loss). Do not waste precious hours of your life escaping into a world of gambling. Reflect on how your deceased loved one would view your gambling habits and strive to think about him/her in a positive way. Don't allow morose feelings to overcome you as these may well lead you to gambling in order to escape the pain.


The fact that some marriages do fail can be a shattering experience for many people. While you may not be able to change what has happened, you can change the way you are dealing with it. You can stay stuck where you are and long for your partner to return, running the risk of eventually living your life as a bitter and lonely person. Alternativey, you can also make the choice to accept that you have been forced into a single life again and painful as it may be, you will have to start again. Even though you may never have another permanent partner, you can still live a full and rewarding life. Get on with your own precious life without gambling in it.

On the other hand, you could establish a new life by joining a club or social group - they won't come to you. If children are involved and you are the sole supporting parent, there will be times when you have difficulty in staying within your budget. You may find youself in the situation when your contact rights are reduced to an intolerable level. You may also have had your income reduced and are struggling to make ends meet as a result of paying very high child support. Gambling is not the way to overcome any of these problems as it will usually make things worse and could also result in you not having contact with your children at all. Therefore, stop gambling and put the money towards your own and your children's future, rather than handing it over to a casino, betting agency or venue owner.

You may choose never to fully disclose what is troubling you, but you must deal with these underlying issues at some stage or you will only revert to gambling somewhere down the line when you are feeling anxious or upset again. Do not turn to gambling because you want to escape to a situation where your pain is masked and you do not have to relate to reality or anyone in it. If you are coping with your life, you do not need to gamble because you do not need more; you already have enough to satisfy you.


How change can help you

Everybody has a rich personal history filled with experiences and resources that can be drawn on and changed where necessary. Think positively and remove as much negativity from your life as possible. We often place restrictions upon ourselves, which prevent us from achieving our desired outcomes, but you can change if you really want to. In order to achieve your goal of making changes to your life, be clear on your desired outcome. Consider the following:

Therefore, do not be afraid to seek professional assistance or conduct self-examination in order to bring about change. If your painful circumstances where involuntary, acknowledge that the circumstances were beyond your control. Commence exploring your options for changing how you are dealing with your life situation.

You will need to apply enormous energy into finding out about yourself. Why do you gamble uncontrollably when somebody else in similar circumstances does not? You have to ask yourself why you started gambling in the first place and then establish how to bring about change. You have to make the necessary life-giving changes. They won't always occur immediately, however, and some may take longer than others.

Will the real you please stand up

In most gamblers, there are usually two conflicting patterns of thought. There is one that desperately wants to gamble (gambling self) and one that really doesn't want to gamble at all (real self). On many occasions, you will conduct internal conversations in trying to decide "will I or won't I go to a venue". Sometimes you will answer "yes" and without hesitation go to a venue, and other times you will answer "no" and go straight home. Eventually, most gamblers stop reasoning with themselves and fall into the pattern of not trying to fight back. The gambling self can also be very clever at inventing all sorts of excuses. Some gamblers can even convince their clear thinking self (real self) that these are not lies, but reasons.

The way we communicate internally is of vital importance. If we entertain negative thoughts, our ability to function in a positive, wholesome way is severely impaired. You will have to change your internal language to enable you to stop gambling. When it comes to gambling, people use different language, but they all make very similar excuses - or are these lies?

Therefore, you have to make a choice to say no to the internal self-created force that seems to have the ability to control you to the point where gambling becomes the only important thing in your life. Only you created the Gambling You and only you can get the Real You back in control again. You will need to develop an internal dialogue in order to have an answer for every damaging, controllng, gambling thought. This needs to be practiced when you get out of bed, during the day, and in fact, every time you are consciously aware of processing any thought that requires a decision.

All about values

Most of us are taught to have good "values" being the principles by which we live. Values give us motivation and direction, and can be taught but not imposed. If we gamble to excess, our values will deteriorate and we may find ourselves in a confused and desperate situation. When you gambled excessively, you have either ignored or lost your values so that you can continue to gamble. There are many values that people tend to lose while they are gambling including,honesty diligence, self-respect, respect for others, integrity, faithfulness, compassion, and reliability.   

While you cannot change the past, you can certainly change your thought processes to ensure that you regain your self-esteem and re-establish your values. Therefore, be kind to yourself. Praise yourself for taking some positive steps to re-establish your values and the changes you need to make to gain control. Think of some positive actions you can take to not only build on existing values, but to develop them even further.

The effects of gambling on you and others

If you have been gambling to excess your life may have taken a turn for the worse in a number of ways. This may include breakdown in family and personal relationships, financial hardship (leading to theft), absenteeism and poor job concentration, stress/ anxiety and suicidal thoughts. If you have had any of these self-destructive problems or thoughts then make an appointment with your medical practitioner to discuss these at the first available opportunity. You could also view the Links/addictions section of this web site.

Your partner, close family member, or friend may also be suffering anxiety as a result of your addiction. He/she may be having great difficultly in juggling the finances and can be feeling totally isolated in knowing how to deal with the problem. This can be one of the most difficult issues for you both to deal with on your road to recovery because you did not set out to cause hurt and anguish for those who care for you. As you were really not there for them emotionally, they will need time to trust and adjust to the new you.

The road to a new future

If you are to successfully gain control of your life and ultimately stay in control, you must carefully create a new future for yourself. There are many stories of people who experience disasters in their life and many times we struggle to imagine how we would deal with the particular circumstances should fate deal us the same blow. However, many of these people are to somehow come to terms with their potentially devastating experience and not only proceed actively with their lives, but actually change this "evil" into something positive and life giving.

You can therefore change a negative part of your life into something postive, by focusing and reflecting on what was, what is and what can be. To enable you to create a fulfilling future, it is imperative that you carefully examine the major areas of your life over a number of years. For example, in examining your relationship with your spouse or partner, you would reflect on the following: What kind of relationship did we have prior to my gambling? How has my gambling affected this relationship? Where would I like this relationship to be in one year's time?

You will soon notice that your preoccupation with the present has limited your ability to focus on the consequences of these actions in the future. By making a comparison between then and now will help you to ascertain what is of  value to you and the behaviour you need to avoid to ensure your desired future. So do not be content to return to your previous life as it existed, because so much has changed and you will need to adjust your thought processes if you are to reach your future goals. With imagination you can build a future from seemingly hopeless present and past. You can now ask yourself the significant question, "Am I going to be content to remain a gambler and accept the consequences that will result from that behaviour, or do I desire a greater future for myself?"

To turn your dream future into a reality you must first define the changes required. It is a good idea to make a list of the values and behaviour you must take with you into your gambling free future. These may include, to change your job, re-establish your relationship, share your dream, avoid certain actions and behaviours, and/or join a local community club or group. There are many in the Yellow Pages and may be one to suit you. It is vital that you do not be a victim of your circumstances- your present and your future is in your hands. The dream will give you direction- your map of the future. However, your determination and your actions will actually get you there. So, map out the best possible future you can imagine and decide what you need to get you there. And, remember that by making simple changes in your behaviour patterns, you can create a more commanding future for yourself.

Taking good care of yourself

Once you have defined and acknowledged the underlying reasons for your gambling and established the future you desire for yourself, you must also now incorporate additional changes at a number of levels. A healthy, focused mind and physical well being go hand in hand. If you are to succeed in your quest to stop ganmbling forever, you must establish a belief that you have the power to stop. This power will come from the strength you can obtain from re-establishing your belief in yourself or from eatablishing a belief in a higher spiritual being.

You should  try to examine your past and find out where you need to be to enable you to be in harmony wih yourself. Try to recall a time in your life when you felt completely at peace. It may have been when you were sitting on the beach, walking in a rain forest, sitting in a park, watching your children play, or any other enjoyable experience. Turn your thoughts to the sights, sounds, feelings, and smells of these places. Also, take a mental snapshot of these sensations you are experiencing and place them firmly in your memory. Alternatively, you could use watch travel shows on television or movies set in beautiful surroundings, imagine you are there personally and capture this experience.

A good method to discover your own spirituality is by larning about the struggles of others. Visit a library and read books about people who have overcome their own struggle in life as we can always learn from these stories. Take inspiration from others who have managed to find hope in the midst of their despair and examine what it was that sustained their spirit and what is it that will sustain mine in my own struggle. Whatever you decide is best for you, take some form of action and follow it through. Establish a quiet environment, only permit positive thoughts to enter your mind, and just allow yourself to be calm and at peace with yourself.

Interestingly, many people turn to gambling as a social outlet because they are just not able to mix comfortably with others. You may be shy or self-conscious and do not know what to say when you are in a group. Effective communication can be taught and will help you get along with most people who you come in contact with. Communication is more than just words; it includes body language and voice intonation. It is also a two-way activity and one of the first things to keep in mind is that in order to be a good communicator, you have to be a good listener. On the other hand, do not be afraid to voice your own opinion because what you have to say is important and deserves to be heard. However, do not expect people to always agree with you, as they too are entitled to their own opinion.

Listening is a great skill and will encourage people to want to talk to you. When you are communication with others, watch for signs to indicate how they are responding. Are they looking you directly at you and showing interest, or are they looking away? Monitor their progress and if what you are doing is not working, then try something else. There are many courses to help you with your communication skills and it is worthwhile to investigate the ones in your area.

Most people you have met at the gambling venues had limited communication because neither of you could see past the gambling scene. It is now the time to bring about some changes, start afresh and seek out a person to communicate with who has something else to share other than their latest big win.

Taking action to protect your money

There are many ways you can protect yourself from handing your money over to the gambling establishments. These include cancelling or giving credit cards to someone you trust, lowering the available credit limit on your credit card, opening a "bank book only" account, carrying minimal amounts of money, handing over all or partial responsibility for your money to your partner or spouse, or seeking the advice of a financial adviser.

Make up a log of how you are managing your money and whether you are progressing financially. You will also be able to ascertain your losses if you are still gambling.
You have gambled again- so what now

If you have found that you have gambled again after seeking professional advice then you have two choices.You can say:

a) "Well, I didn't make it; the advice didn't help me so I will just have to be a gambler for the rest of my life", or

b)  "O'kay, I didn't make it this time, even though I was able to stop gambling for several weeks. I will continue to seek professional advice and try harder from now on.

In other words, focus on your achievement, If you can do it once out of five, or seven out of ten times, it indicates that you have the ability to stop. You could try to establish why your were able to keep away from gambling when you were tempted to go.

It is vital that you continue on your journey towards reaching your goal, even if you experience setbacks along the way. Do not see these setbacks as failures and become disheartened or demotivated to try once more. You should realise that you are, in effect, trying to break a long-standing habit and it is difficult to make change overnight. For some people it takes a number of tries before they are able to bring about the necessary change to eliminate gambling forever.

You are "only human" and old wounds can still resurface. There may be certain occasions that can be enough to entice you to start once again. Your brain is programmed to send responsive messages, and as a gambler, you will have also programmed a message to gamble as a result of internal anxiety. You have to learn to program yourself to have a different response to the one you have now. You know how to fight back by talking to the your gambling self and proving that you are really in control. If you believe however that you would benefit from any additional frm of therapy, then seek assistance immediately. Use whatever aid you can to keep you focused and motivated.

Once the real you is back in control and you no longer gamble, youn are going to be a more focused person with money to spend on fun and life-giving things. You will know that you are able to be in control and that you have a great future ahead of you. However, you are in the early stages of rehabilitation and may be tempted again somewhere, at some time. Only you can make the decision as to whether or not you give in. Have faith in yourself and your own ability to stop.

Help for Families

Any form of excess gambling takes it toll on the family and other relationships. Most people relate a feeling of helplessness on not knowing what to do or where to turn for help. It seems that you are talking to a brick wall when attempting to convince another person to stop gambling.

Signs to look for

Excessive gambling behaviour can be hidden for months, or even years. However, some warning signs could include the following:

How can you help another person to quit gambling?

Most gamblers avoid acknowledging that they have a problem and defer seeking help until they have reached total despair. It is best to explain your concerns to a person when they appear calm and relaxed. Their initial reaction may be anger, but most gamblers will appreciate your help in time. However, do not force the issue and do not be offended if the offer of support is declined. If you have not discussed the gambling problem before, you may feel hesitant, but remember that you have real concerns and that you will not be helping them by going into denial yourself.

One of the most difficult problems may be in refusing to lend them more money. Many gamblers will turn to some very demanding and emotionally manipulative methods of obtaining money from you, but you are not helping them by proving money under threat. Threating behaviour of any kind is unacceptable and you should not allow abuse to continue. Seek the help from a family member or support group while you consider the options available to you.

Many compulsive gamblers would have considered or even attempted suicide at some time in their lives. This will leave you in the most unenviable situation when you are asked to provide money again. Therefore, you are more likely to react in angrily to the desperate position you have been placed in. Your anger is well founded because you are processing your thoughts as a rational and controlled person, whereas your loved one has probably reached rock-bottom and is only thinking of getting out of trouble once again. Because you have provided them money in the past, you are viewed as an ongoing lifeline. And, by handing over more money, you are allowing the abusive, compulsive behaviour to continue.

Therefore, if your family life is being disrupted the following sugestions may prove helpful to you.

In conclusion, if you just want to learn how to reduce your gambling habits then this kind of advice is not for you. The above information is designed to give clear instruction on how to stop gambling forever. While you may have the willpower to stop gambling, this in itself is not enough. In fact, you need to understand why you are gambling and learn how to bring about the necessary changes to quit forever.

How to Stop Gambling
By Peter Jenkyns (University Graduate)
25th January 2004

Rasmussen, L. (2001). Stop gambling: start living.
                  Ormond, Vic: Hybrid Publishers
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For some people gambling gets out of control. The gambler tries to hide the problem and takes bigger risks hoping to get out of trouble. Fear and lying starts to create bad feelings with family and friends. Things go from bad to worse.