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6 ways to stop gambling

Gambling Addition

According to GambleAlert, a non-profit Nigerian organisation that advocates responsible gambling, the country is replete with what has been termed ludomania (gambling addiction), which is an urge to gamble continuously despite harmful negative consequences or a desire to stop.

The American Psychiatric Association in a report highlighted the signs and symptoms of gambling addiction to include feeling a thrill when gambling, taking more risks, an increased craving for gambling, reliving gambling experiences, feeling guilty or remorseful after gambling, and past failed attempts to quit the habit.

A social and health psychology scholar at the University of Ibadan, Oyo State, Prof Peter Olapegba, noted that gambling addiction affects people’s quality of life, causing them to fritter away money meant for feeding and other important things. He said it also causes family dysfunction and irresponsibility. “It will affect health, cause anxiety, depression which is a precursor to suicide,” he added.

In his interview with our correspondent, a mental health expert, Sola Adepoju, explained that gambling addicts can beat the habit and regain control of their lives once they are able to recognise the signs of the addiction.

Learn your triggers

Adepoju stated that addicts should learn and avoid gambling triggers, which he defined as situations, thoughts, feelings or behaviours that make them want to gamble.

He added, “They must understand the reasons behind their pathological gambling and the external factors that might be contributing to it. Being around friends with the same habits triggers many problem gamblers.

“Some gamblers are more predisposed to gambling when they drink and there has been a link between gambling addiction and substance abuse. Some could be triggered by betting sites or boredom. Taking notes of these triggers is a first step.”

Take charge of your feelings

A guidance and counselling researcher, Dennis Odaibo, in an interview with our correspondent, pointed out that many gambling addicts are often “high” when they gamble and that they need to address this.

“Pathological gambling could be a pattern of meeting an emotional need and a mechanism of escape from reality,” Odaibo noted. “Some gamblers are angry after each session or become socially withdrawn. So, they should write down their thoughts, feelings and situations that occurred before and during the gambling to understand what caused the craving.

“The addict must understand that these feelings they have during gambling are temporary so they must pay attention to their emotional wellness, take a record of their thoughts and develop ways by which they can postpone the activity or distract themselves with a hobby.”

Avoid high-risk situations

Adepoju explained that isolation, online betting sites, and carrying a large amount of physical cash could make gambling addicts succumb to their cravings.

He said, “Isolation predisposes sufferers to high risk, so spending more time with family members and friends instead of spending a long duration browsing sites can curb this. Other activities like watching a movie, practicing mindfulness exercises, or going to the gym can also help.

“It’s often difficult to avoid the cravings if the addict finds themselves near a betting spot or they visit online gambling sites. So, they should be avoided; the same with carrying around a large amount of cash.”

Odaibo also advised addicts to take alternate routes if they know they could change their mind if they pass by a betting shop, and that they could change the channel if watching sports makes them want to bet.

Challenge irrational beliefs

A former gambling addict, Emmanuel Johnny, in an interview with our correspondent, noted that the habit is often fuelled by fallacies and superstitious thinking.

He stated, “Overcoming compulsive gambling involves what I call ‘mind reconfiguration.’ You have to challenge the fallacies that fuel gambling like the belief that a random incident signals if a game would be won or lost. With strong mental work, one can identify and alter these mindsets.

“Superstitious thinking is very common among gamblers; they attach meanings to odds, and certain actions or events. There’s this strong belief in luck and it takes time for one to shed this belief and realise these are mere coincidences.”

Adepoju noted that another false thought pattern that is typical of gamblers is the illusion of control. “It’s the belief that you can control the outcome of any game. To prevent this thought, remind yourself that no technique or trick can change what happens,” he added.

Recognise benefits of quitting

According to Odaibo, compulsive gamblers need to understand that gambling disorder “can lead to several adverse outcomes, from draining your finances to destroying close relationships. Although shame and guilt could pose some difficulty to recovery, a small amount of reflection can motivate you to get better.”

Adepoju also advised that habitual gamblers should ponder on how it had negatively affected them and the benefits of stopping it.

“Calculate the money and time you have spent gambling and think of better ways you could spend them. Consider all the positives of overcoming the addiction; setting goals and finding a more practical outlet for your stressors can improve your mental health,” he stated.

Go for therapy

Adepoju said, “Studies have shown that gambling is more addictive, if not more than cigarettes or drugs. Those who are addicted to it should seek professional counselling or psychotherapy.

“Through therapy, compulsive gamblers can find their feet, navigate its withdrawal symptoms and recover from the adverse effects of this addictive habit.”

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