Why do I gamble?
If gambling has stopped being fun for you and started to feel like a problem, you may have found yourself asking "Why do I gamble?"
Most people who have problems with gambling fall into two broad groups:
- Those that say they gamble because it gives them some excitement and is challenging, and
- Those who 'zone out' while gambling. They don't think or feel, their worries and cares disappear and their problems are forgotten.
Why you gamble
Do any of the reasons in the list below apply to you? Write your own list.
- To win money
- For entertainment
- To be sociable
- To make a big win
- To forget troubles
- To escape from problems
- For something to do
- For excitement
- To avoid talking to people
As well as all these reasons, people may gamble as a habit. The reasons they started have been forgotten and the habit just goes on. You can take steps to break the habit.
Do I need to give up gambling?
Some people who are problem gamblers can return to a controlled level of gambling. However, most people prefer to abstain, or give up gambling for good. There are no rules for determining whether you should reduce or stop your gambling. Generally if you're losing more money than you can afford, accumulating debts, suffering mentally, physically, and/or socially, giving up may be your best option.
People gamble for lots of different reasons and sometimes those reasons change. You might gamble regularly at the TAB ‘to win money' but join the Melbourne Cup sweep in your office ‘to be sociable'. You might usually play the pokies alone but share a machine when you go out with family and friends. Understanding why you gamble can help you change your behaviour.
How to cut back
Tell others about your decision
It is easier to stick to decisions if you tell other people about them. Why not start by telling someone important to you that you are going to try to cut back on your gambling? Remember, you need to choose carefully and talk to people you can trust when looking for the support of others.
Set limits and stick to a budget
You need to decide how much money you want to spend (that means ‘risk losing') on gambling each week. Think of it as entertainment money, not an investment. If you choose to spend $20 at the TAB or on the poker machines, spend only that amount. If you win, do not add the winnings to your initial stake - spend it another way. If you have debts, then include regular repayments of these as part of your budget. Set repayments as low as you can so you don't end up really short of money - that could just add pressure and make you want to gamble more.
Write your own gambling diary
A gambling diary helps you to be honest with yourself about how often you gamble and how much you lose. Keeping a diary can help you develop self-awareness and change your behaviour. Remember, you do not have to gamble everyday or lose money every session to have an issue with your gambling.
By identifying the thoughts, feelings and situations that occur before and during a gambling session, you can start to understand the causes of gambling. This knowledge is important if you are going to break your gambling habit as it will tell you exactly what triggers each episode.
You can use the information in your diary to weigh up the pros and cons of your gambling.
Get your thinking straight
Problem gamblers often end up with some pretty strange ways of thinking about how much they lose and how skilful they are at gambling. Often gamblers have no idea how much they win or lose in the long term but they believe they are in front.
The only way a gambler can be sure that he or she is thinking straight when they say ‘I'm ahead' is if their diary records actually add up to a profit. Otherwise, you must assume that you are behind and make sure your thinking fits the facts.
When you start to make changes to your gambling habits, say good things to yourself. This may seem silly but what we say to ourselves is really important. It helps you change old habits.