People who are trying to change their gambling habits can find that managing their money is especially difficult. Getting money on payday can lead to gambling, especially if money has been tight or you have recently received a large bill which triggers the urge to gamble to make money.
Choosing someone to help you manage your money, even temporarily, can ease the burden. But who to ask?
It’s important to choose someone you trust. Someone who makes sensible decisions with their money, who will listen to what you are trying to achieve, who will respect your privacy but also will not bow to any pressure you put on them to change the plan you have made together. It’s important to feel secure in your decision.
After choosing a person, you should sit and work out a plan. Strategies for managing your money could include:
Contribute honestly to the plan to make sure it works for your everyday life. Discuss your day-to-day living expenses and how you’ll handle unexpected emergency expenses.
Decide how you want to be given money to cover everyday expenses. For example, will it be a fortnightly allowance, or money transferred to your account on a smaller time scale? What will you both be able to manage during this time?
Decide if your support person should hold your cards or change the pin numbers for your bank accounts.
Decide how long the arrangement will last initially before you have a review meeting. It is important that managing your money does not make the relationship difficult so make sure your support person knows how much you appreciate their help!
Arrange follow-up meetings to review your spending habits and take on new strategies if the current ones aren’t working.
Having someone help you manage the way you spend your money is a simple but effective barrier to gambling: if you don’t have access to money, you can’t gamble. That gives you space to think about other things and can provide space to work on other goals you may have, especially around how you spend the money you work hard to earn.
A recent caller to the Gambling Helpline told us what happened when they asked a loved one to manage their money: “It’s the first time in ages I wasn’t focused on my pay hitting the bank account. Instead of gambling it all, I can sleep at night knowing my bills are being paid… I have stopped lying to my partner, it’s been good for our relationship”.
If you’re considering asking a trusted loved one for help to break the cycle of gambling, give us a call on 1800 858 858. A free and confidential trained counsellor can help you decide how to choose and approach a support person and work out a plan that works for you. You can also join our forums and ask our members what worked for them.
For many Gambling Help clients, the struggle with gambling can be a symptom of a broader issue: a reaction to a stressful experience in their life, such as grief or loneliness, or a response to an ongoing mental health issue. Sometimes we might not realise the connection until a counsellor helps ‘join the dots’.
Some common triggers for issues with gambling include:
So what is the use in ‘joining the dots’ to look at the big picture, such as factors that might contribute to the urge to gamble? There is good news: all of the common triggers have effective and evidence-based treatments. If you can treat the source of your problem, the symptoms can become much more manageable.
The urge to gamble can be a ‘chicken and egg’ scenario: your mental health issues make you want to gamble, but can also be worsened by gambling as financial and interpersonal pressures are worsened. Ignoring the problem can just make the additional pressures grow. Thankfully, a counsellor can help you intervene to stop the vicious cycle.
If you want to change your gambling but you’re not sure how, a counsellor can help you identify and address contributing issues. Call a free, confidential counsellor on 1800 858 858 and get help to ‘join the dots’, get a good look at the big picture and start treatment today.
Special Announcement: Shared Experience Project
To help raise community awareness of the harm experienced by gambling and de-stigmatise problem gambling and help-seeking behaviour, the Gambling Impact Society (GIS) is currently recruiting people to join a project where they can tell their story in a shared experience project. Participants are given free professional training, and gain skills and support to make presentations to their peers. They become part of a team providing positive role models to the community and to those who may be currently struggling with the effects of problem gambling. Peer educators are paid a small fee and reimbursed travel expenses in recognition of their contribution.
Should you be interested in participating in this project, or if you would like to chat with us first to find out more, please contact: GIS Executive Officer and project coordinator: Kate Roberts – 0401 370 042 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find out more about the GIS at www.gisnsw.org.au.
It might sound strange, but deciding to make a change to your gambling can be just like getting fit.
Many of us have been on a fitness journey: we’ve signed up for the gym, gone to exercise classes, perhaps met with a personal trainer. We’ve made big changes to our diets and organised our lives around a new routine. We’ve made the choice to focus on our health and made a big effort to improve our physical health. We take steps to help our bodies grow fit and strong.
If we stick with it, we’ve often been met with success. Over time, we notice changes in our bodies and energy levels. We get into a good routine and slowly see progress in other areas of our lives. Our day-to-day routine gets easier. It’s great to see that hard work and commitment pays off with good results. Often the results are enough to help us sustain the behaviour.
Changing your gambling habits can be the same.
Personal trainers and fitness gurus use motivational principles that are based on psychology: set goals. Work towards them. Take one step at a time. They’re the same principles we recommend you follow when you decide to take control of your gambling.
Here are our tips to ‘get in shape’:
Focus on change: Identify the problem areas and your desired outcome. In the gym, that might mean you want to lose fat and add muscle. When it comes to gambling, you might want to stop altogether or decide you only want to cut down. Identify your goal, and keep it in your mind.
Examine your behaviour: Identify the areas of your life that are motivating you to change, and the things that might be stopping you. Consider your routine: what kinds of situations prompt you to gamble? Which situations help you to resist? Understand your behaviour and use it to your advantage.
Set goals: You’ve already identified your primary goal, but when we set big goals they can seem unattainable. Break your goal down into smaller, manageable goals with deadlines. Think about what you need to do to achieve your goals, and what stands in your way. Consider what resources are available to help you.
Check in with your ‘trainer’: Just like having a workout group or personal trainer, having someone to check in with weekly is invaluable when you’re trying to make a change. You might ask a trusted family member or friend to help, or reach out to a professional Gambling Help counsellor. You might seek help from both your loved ones and a professional. Week by week, as a client goes through situations that are challenging, triggering or successful, having a friend or counsellor to debrief with, brainstorm solutions to issues and celebrate successes with, is fundamental. Making any change in life is difficult. Research shows that having social and professional support helps you to reach your goals.
Are you ready to ‘get fit’? For many people, there has been a time when they have changed their behaviour significantly, because of a personal goal, or because it felt necessary. The first step is almost always making a decision to change. The next step is often finding someone with the tools to help you.
If you are interested in making the first step towards changing your gambling, call us at Gambling Help on 1800 858 858 to speak to a trained gambling counsellor who can help you get started on your journey.
Research shows a relationship between traumatic or stressful experience in early life and dealing with substance use, problem gambling, anxiety, and depression as an adult. Not all kids who endured adversity experience problems with addictive behaviours later in life, but some do.
Kids can experience lots of different types of stress or trauma, such as:
losing a parent
witnessing or living through family violence or other abuse
illness or injury
living with a mentally ill parent
financial and/or housing instability
Why do these kinds of experiences in childhood make people more vulnerable to problems as adults? We’re still not entirely sure.
A common theory is that experiencing adversity as a child can cause physical changes in the brain. Kids who experience stress or trauma may find that they experience ‘fight or flight’ mode more frequently than their peers. Stress hormones flood their developing brain and body. Over time, they may become chronically over- or under-responsive to the hormones as a result of overexposure. They might be on edge all of the time, or completely numb.
These stressful experiences leave a mark on the way their brains work to regulate emotions and impulses. As adults, they typically experience more mental or emotional distress than the general population. This leaves them vulnerable to ‘reward-seeking’ behaviour, such as gambling, that triggers the release of chemicals associated with pleasure, such as dopamine or serotonin. Reward-seeking behaviours can become addictive: when something feels good, you want to experience it again.
If you had a difficult childhood and now find yourself wanting to make a change to your gambling, it can be helpful to understand that there may be physiological or emotional factors that led you to this situation, as it can help you to figure out how to act from here.
For many people, a big step can be to work on changing the way that they relate to and manage stress, and find alternative ways to regulate intense emotions. Others may feel they need to address their childhood pain before they can move forward.
Gambling Help counsellors can help you figure out what you need to successfully make a change in your life. Be kind to yourself. If you want to make a change, call 1800 858 858 to speak to a professional, free and confidential counsellor who can help you decide what to do next.
The idea of hitting ‘rock bottom’ is often associated with recovery. It’s common to think that to decide to change, we first have to find ourselves in the very worst situation we can imagine: hopeless, helpless, and scared. A common thought that many Gambling Help clients have is “Do I need to hit rock bottom in order to change? How bad do things have to get before change happens?”
The good news is you can decide to make a change at any time. Sometimes hitting rock bottom gives people the motivation to seek help, but that doesn’t mean you have to hit rock bottom before changing your gambling habits. Your reasons to change just have to outweigh the reasons to stay the same.
If you think you might be ready to make some changes in your life, here are a few tips to help you make up your mind:
Make a list of the pros of making changes to your gambling. It’s a good idea to actually write this out rather than making a mental list, so you have a visual aid you can refer to in order to help you change. Considering the thoughts, feelings or actions that are pushing you towards change will help you make a list of the benefits of changing. For example, “I feel bad about the money I spend” can translate to “I will be happier with the way I manage my money.”
Consider what is really important to you. For example, is being a good money manager important to you? Is providing for your family important? Do you like being able to pay your own way rather than rely on others?
Visualise what life might be like if you change. Honestly assess the impact of your habits on your life. Will changing your behaviour ease some of the pressure that you feel? Will some aspects of life be harder? What could you do to mitigate the negative effects?
Consider what your ‘rock bottom’ might be. Are you on that trajectory? How close are you? Could you avoid it by changing course now?
Sometimes, our actions seem inevitable and automatic, but the truth is we can decide to take control. You don’t need to hit rock bottom to change. You might just decide that the pros of making a change outweigh the cons of continuing on your current trajectory.
We know the decision isn’t easy. A trained counsellor can give you some ideas on how to get started. If you’re having issues and want some guidance, give us a call on 1800 858 858.
Many people who are facing financial stress feel shame. The thought of growing debt and facing the potential judgment of others can be overwhelming, particularly when related to gambling, and they feel they have to shoulder the burden alone.
The truth is, many Australians have financial difficulties at some point in their lives. If you are facing financial uncertainty, you are not alone. Financial counsellors can offer practical tools and strategies that can help you take control of the situation.
Gus*, a former client, began gambling to relieve stress because of a struggling business. His debts began to grow, but he could not tell his family. He hid the full extent of the problem for a long time while his debt slowly built. As the debt grew, so did his anxiety and shame. Gus grew more and more worried about being found out. In the end, when his wife discovered the debts, it was almost a relief. He was pushed to crisis point, but they could start working on a solution to the problem together.
“It was definitely my rock bottom when my wife found out. She was more worried than anything, and also understandably angry. That same afternoon I called up the Gambling Helpline and had a long talk with someone there. They referred me to a free Financial Counsellor. I went with my wife and over the next month or so they worked through a lot of the debts. We consolidated everything into one manageable payment plan which gave us some breathing room…
It was, in some ways, a relief to not have to hide this huge thing that was happening anymore. Even though the way it happened was awful and created a lot of trust issues between us, when I got some professional help things started to feel more manageable. The debt wasn’t just this big unknown thing that I was scared to look at. It was something that could be chipped away at bit by bit. A huge weight was lifted from my shoulders about three months after I first started seeing the Financial Counsellor, when they told me I wouldn’t lose my business after all.”
Gus’ experience is common among people who are dealing with debt. When people try to deal with the problem alone it feels like it is massive and unmanageable, but when they share the burden with trusted loved ones and trained professionals, they find they can carry the weight.
If you feel you might benefit from the support of a financial counsellor who specialises in working with people who have been affected by gambling, contact the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858 to have a chat to one of our professional counsellors. Together, you can figure out your next steps.
As we approach 2019, many people we speak to are taking stock and realising that they don’t like the role that gambling plays in their lives. If that sounds like you, that realisation is an opportunity to make positive change in your life and the lives of your loved ones.
For many people who have successfully changed their behaviour, their journey started with a keen awareness of the things they were missing out on. Fear of missing out shifted the balance towards change.
Some previous Gambling Help clients told us why they decided to make the change:
It was just after Christmas one year and I realised that, instead of spending time with my kids and wife, I had been focused on my phone pretty much all day. I was consumed with my sports betting app because I’d bet way more than I’d intended, and was focused on winning it all back. It was only when my wife had a word with me I realised I’d missed out on a whole lot of memories and my son’s first Christmas. That kind of shook me up and made me look at my gambling a bit differently – as something that was taking me away from my family. —Chris, 28
I don’t think I thought of my gambling as a bad thing necessarily until I realised that I hadn’t been on a holiday in seven years! One of my friends pointed out to me that I work pretty much all the time and never seem to get to relax, and she was right. As soon as I got paid, I put it straight back into the pokies and then waited for next paycheck to do it all again. It hadn’t seemed to be a problem for me until then, but the more I thought about it, the more it made me wonder if it was worth it, to be missing out on a break every year for just a few hours of distraction every fortnight. — Alison, 47
It is very common to feel as if life is passing you by if you are caught in the cycle of gambling more than you can afford. This is the perfect time of year to take control of your choices. If you want to make lasting change, call the Gambling Helpline on 1800 858 858. A trained gambling counsellor can help you to explore your options and help you on your journey of where you want your life to go from here.
Sometimes, we know we need help but we don’t reach out for it because we’re uncertain about what might happen. Here are some common worries that might be stopping you from reaching out to Gambling Help NSW, and why they might not be as big a problem as you might think.
I’m worried about what the counsellor will think.
The counsellor won’t judge you. They work with all kinds of people, all of the time, and they know you only need their support. Gambling and financial counsellors are trained to work in an empathetic and encouraging way. Getting help is not about being made to feel bad or guilty about your behaviour. It is about working together to find a way to do things differently.
I can’t afford to get help, or I don’t have time.
We know how busy life can get, so we make it easy to get help by providing a number of flexible options: free 24-hour online counselling or phone support, and after-hours services at many of our locations throughout New South Wales. We know that fitting in an appointment can seem impossible. That’s why our free services make themselves available to you when it’s convenient for you.
I don’t feel comfortable speaking English to a counsellor.
If you’d feel more comfortable talking in another language, counselling is available in more than 40 community languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese, Vietnamese, Arabic, and Italian. We want you to feel like you can really express yourself.
I don’t have that much of a gambling problem and there are other people worse off than me.
You don’t need to be suffering a certain amount of harm from gambling in order to seek help to tackle a gambling problem. In fact, seeking help at the right time can help prevent further problems from starting and affecting other parts of your life, such financial, family and legal.
I’m not sure I want to stop gambling altogether.
Getting help doesn’t necessarily mean stopping altogether. We want to help you find ways to minimise any harm you might experience from gambling. What that means is different for everybody. Often people will have mixed feelings about starting to make changes. The process can involve a feeling of loss or a period of adjustment. That’s okay. Our counsellor is there to work with you at your own pace.
We know that getting help can seem overwhelming, but we promise: we’re not that scary. Once they take that first step, most people are glad that they made the decision to get support, and you will be too. Give us a call on 1800 858 858 to speak to a trained counsellor about the help that is available to you.
Encouraging your teen to think critically about gambling can help prevent them from developing problems in the future.
Don’t demand that they promise never to gamble. They might make the promise but they’re unlikely to keep it in the long run. Instead, talk to them about facts, realities of gambling and make sure they understand the odds.
The guide has some suggested questions and facts to share. If your teenager understands the potential consequences, they will be better prepared to make responsible decisions, should they decide to try gambling.
Make sure your teenager always knows they can talk to you about their problems and concerns — and that no matter what, you’ll always love them and won’t judge them.
You might suspect that your teen is already experimenting with gambling. Young people can be vulnerable because they’re more likely to be impulsive, and less likely to understand risks and consequences. Some signs to watch out for include:
your teenager is uncharacteristically broke or makes sudden changes in spending behaviour
moodiness and social withdrawal
strange sleep patterns
irritability or lethargy
obsessive discussion of sports and other events only in terms of the odds.
If you have concerns for your teen, consider calling the Gambling Helpline, 1800 858 858, available for free 24/7. You will reach a qualified counsellor who can advise you on your specific circumstances and help you devise a strategy to approach the problem.
People thinking about making changes to their gambling habits often find it daunting deciding where to start: Should you go to Gambling Anonymous meetings? Go to see a psychologist? See a counsellor? Try to do it all by yourself?
If you’re seeking help for the first time, it’s understandable that you may be confused about where to get it. We’ve got some suggestions about how to take the first step:
Visit the Gambling Help NSW website – it provides information and resources about gambling from contributing factors and ideas for making changes or cutting back, to self-help materials that you can try for yourself.
Make a call to the Gambling Helpline 1800 858 858 – speak to a trained gambling counsellor who can give you some advice. Depending on your needs, the counsellor can talk to you over the phone about gambling and ask you some questions, such as what changes you might like to make, and what has stopped you from being able to make these changes so far. Or, if you feel ready, they can refer you to see a face-to-face counsellor.
See a face-to-face counsellor – many people benefit from speaking to somebody face-to-face, particularly if their gambling has triggered other problems in their lives. Gambling Help NSW offers gambling counselling from trained behavioural change and gambling specialists, and financial counselling from professionals experienced in debt, bankruptcy and personal finance.
Contact Gamblers Anonymous (GA) – for some people, attending GA meetings might also be helpful, as it provides peer support. Listening to other people’s stories and sharing your own may help empower you to make important changes in your life. It doesn’t have to be a choice between GA or individual counselling either – many people do both.
If you’re nervous, remind yourself that people like you seek help every day. The help offered is free, non-judgmental, and designed to support you to move forward. Call 1800 858 858 to speak to a trained counsellor who can help you find a strategy that works for you.