The COVID-19 outbreak has been stressful for everyone. People with an active gambling addiction, or who are in recovery, may find this period even more challenging because of the effects of prolonged isolation, boredom, economic instability, and fear. Add to this reality the fact that individuals who once turned to in-person gambling locales, cannot frequent casinos, or the race track, or other in-person gambling venues at this time, causing surges in anxiety and depression, and potentially increases in other forms of illegal gambling, including online activities.
Gambling problems can affect anyone, regardless of age, gender, race, socio-economic status, or other factors. The good news is that help and hope are always available. The National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG) defines problem gambling as “all gambling behavior patterns that compromise, disrupt or damage personal, family or vocational pursuits.”
According to the NCPG, symptoms associated with problem gambling include an increasing preoccupation with gambling; the need to bet more money more frequently; restlessness or irritability when attempting to stop or reduce gambling; lying to family members or others to conceal the extent of gambling behavior; and more. In extreme cases, problem gambling can create significant financial, legal, family, and work-related issues, or even result in suicide.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an active gambling addiction or are concerned about your recovery during this period, here are some tips.
- When you feel the urge to gamble online then use that as a motive to go for your daily walk or exercise instead.
- If you do decide to gamble, make sure you keep a record of how much money and time you spend on gambling daily. Research has shown that gamblers lose track of money and time spent on gambling.
- Stay in touch with your friends and peers, and discuss with them your thoughts of gambling. Social distancing should not be social isolation and having support can make a big difference.
- Keep your mind busy. Finding alternative mental stimulating tasks can be very beneficial in order to suppress thoughts of gambling. If being online is inevitable then seek online activities that will help you overcome the urge to gamble.
- Connect online with recovery groups. During this time, especially, it’s important to not only find support for yourself but to help others who may not have any other connections with the recovery world.
- If you feel you are losing control of your gambling activities do not hesitate to seek expert advice.