Below is some advice and information around gambling addiction and support.
Let us set the scene. You are staying indoors; maybe you have the TV on for background noise while you work from home.
Perhaps you have been furloughed. You are on your phone a bit more than usual, cycling through social media — Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat. Due to the coronavirus outbreak, you have been relying more on your digital devices to get through each day.
As you scroll, a gambling ad pops up on your screen and you click on the colourful wheel of fortune. But then what?
The increased frequency of these adverts has been criticised by government and by charities. Gambling, after all, can affect any one of us. What starts as harmless fun and a much-needed distraction, given the present circumstances, can soon become an unhealthy need with serious consequences.
During the COVID-19 crisis, we want to offer you helpful tips and advice on gambling addiction and point you in the direction of support.
We understand that most people with such addictions are using them to escape from other problems or pressures in their lives – money worries, stresses at home or at work, boredom or loneliness. Understanding how gambling is impacting your life can be an important first step in your recovery.
If you are at home and concerned about your use of gambling websites and apps, you can try the following steps to help overcome the urge:
Take a pause and think
Take one day at a time. Breathe, take a minute and adjust to each day as it comes.
Are you gambling when you are stressed or bored? Think about when, and why, you feel the need to bet.
Get to know what triggers the urge to bet
Do the periods when you access online or mobile betting form a pattern? If so, make a plan to occupy your mind with alternative activities during these periods. Schedule time to talk to a friend, start a hobby or do something new.
Take control of your access to money
Speak to someone you trust and ask them to manage your money, making it harder for you to access it quickly or when you feel you want to gamble.
You can contact your bank and request they stop particular companies from debiting funds from your account.
Avoid the ads and social media
You can actively block specific adverts on social media. If you see a gambling advert, select the ‘Hide Ad’ option, which will then conceal similar notices.
You can self-exclude from each separate company with which you place bets, or from multiple companies at the same time. You can also search for 'responsible gambling' on the gambling websites, as well as visiting GamStop which now enables you to self-exclude from sites, for free, over a certain period of time.
Ask for help
Seek support when you need it, especially when you feel the compulsion to bet or when you feel like things are out of control. Talking through your feelings will help you understand your emotions.
We appreciate that these are unusual times and for some people coping with the stress of self-isolation, along with the wider public health crisis, may increase drive the urge to gamble. However, there are organisations in Northern Ireland that can help in taking the first steps to overcome an addiction.
Dunlewey Addiction Services can provide help and support for anyone affected by gambling addiction - https://dunlewey.net/helpline-contact-us/NI 08000 886 725
Minding Your Mind has other regional gambling support services listed on its website - www.mindingyourhead.info/topics/gambling
Everyone's recovery journey is different. The goals you set yourself have to be achievable and realistic, though you should remain positive as you meet each target set.
Breaking a dependency is very difficult. If you do relapse, avoid being too hard on yourself. Learn from what happened – did anything trigger the urge? Reach out and speak to someone about what happened. It might not be an easy conversation to have, but it might help you to regain control.
Remember, you can overcome a gambling addiction. Seek support, talk about how you feel and celebrate successes.