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Gambling Relapses – How to Prevent a Relapse

Gambling is a form of entertainment where people bet something of value on a random event, with awareness of risk and in the hope of winning. It ranges from lottery tickets and the betting of small sums of money by people who have little to no money, to sophisticated casino gambling done for profit or as a pastime. Regardless of the type of gambling, it is a common activity that can cause harm to individuals, families and communities, including financial problems, family breakdown, poor performance at work or study, addiction, mental illness and suicide.

Some people are able to control their gambling habits and stop themselves from becoming addicted. Others find it more difficult and may lapse from time to time. During a lapse, you may start gambling again even though you have vowed to stop. If you are able to identify the triggers that lead to gambling, you can take steps to prevent a relapse and break the cycle of harmful behaviour.

A relapse may be triggered by an emotional or financial crisis, like a relationship breakup, loss of employment or a medical emergency. In addition, it can occur when you are around the environment where you used to gamble or when you see signs of gambling on TV, in shops or on your way to work.

Whether you are gambling online or in a casino, there is always a chance of losing. To minimise your risk, never chase your losses – think of each lose as just the cost of entertainment and any winnings as a bonus. This will help you to stay in the moment and focus on enjoying what’s actually happening instead of worrying about your losses.

You should also limit your spending by controlling your cash and avoid using credit cards or carrying large amounts of money around with you. If you use gambling venues to socialise, try to find alternative ways to spend your spare time. Find activities that require more brainpower or physical exertion, for example taking a class, reading a book or exercising. Filling in the gap that gambling has left with new things to do can help you regain control of your finances and stop you from reaching for your phone or laptop.

If you are worried about a loved one’s gambling addiction, seek support from a specialist or a peer support group such as Gam-Anon, which is modelled on Alcoholics Anonymous. It can be very difficult to cope with a loved one’s compulsive gambling, and you may find it hard to resist their requests for “just this once.” If you are feeling overwhelmed, reach out to family and friends for support and try to reduce the financial risk of the problem gambler by restricting access to their credit card and bank account. See the Better Health Channel fact sheet ‘Gambling – financial issues’ for more information.