Hypnotherapy and gambling
Gambling seems to be more and more of a problem, perhaps because of how easy it is. No more inconvenience getting down to the betting shop or bingo hall, you can gamble 24/7, in your own home, on your PC or phone. As a hypnotherapist, I have noticeably more people asking me if I can help with this issue than I had even a couple of years ago.
Is your gambling a problem?
In fact, 95% of people that gamble don’t have a problem with it (1). It's an occasional, fun experience. Of those that remain, around half sometimes gamble more than they'd like, or use gambling now and then to make themselves feel better. The others can develop a real problem where their gambling regularly feels out of control.
It can be difficult to admit that you have a gambling problem, even to yourself. But you may have a problem if
- you gamble when you don’t wish to
- you continue past the point where you know you really should stop
- you lose money that you need for other things
- you are getting into debt because of gambling
- you feel you have to hide the extent of your gambling from someone, or to lie about it
- the people around you complain to the point where you feel you have to defend your gambling
Admitting you have a problem is the first - and for some the most difficult - step. Once you have done this you can begin to take back control.
Why is gambling addictive?
Gambling can be a difficult habit to kick, and hypnosis isn’t a magic wand which will effortlessly take away the urge. It may help you to change the every-day behavioural elements of a gambling habit, and/or to recognise and deal with the causes behind it.
One reason gambling is so difficult to quit is that it offers us occasional and random rewards; psychology tells us that to our brains these are the most enticing of all.
Think of it this way. When you were little, you probably loved putting money into drinks machines or pressing the button on the pedestrian crossing. But as you grew older, the thrill of hearing the thud as the can of drink came down, or seeing the green man light up, diminished. You get the same response every time, it’s predictable and therefore not very exciting, once the novelty wears off.
But if you never knew when it was going to work and when it wasn't, it would become exciting again. It would build a sense of pleasant anticipation because you'd know that if this is one of the times it works, you'll feel happy and excited.
That's exactly how gambling works on your emotions. Because you win sometimes, and that's a great feeling, your brain anticipates a win each time and it feels exciting to try, even though you know rationally that you lose more often than you win.
How do I stop gambling?
Although this emotional cycle can keep a gambling habit going, there is often more to it.
There may be areas of our lives which are less than satisfying, or where we feel unfulfilled or unhappy. Gambling offers an 'out' when we feel down, and this kind of thinking is very 'present tense'. It doesn’t take into account how we'll feel later when we’ve lost - again. The goal of hypnotherapy is to change your behaviour, of course, but also to help you look at the thoughts, attitudes and past incidents which might have created your gambling habit, and to deal with them differently.
No therapist - hypnotherapist or otherwise - can do this for you. You need to want it, and be prepared to work at it. You have to accept that you'll need a number of sessions and that the results may not be instantaneous. Having other support as well, such as joining Gambler's Anonymous, helps some people.
But if you really want to stop gambling, whether it's an occasional worry or more, hypnotherapy may be able to help, so get in touch and ask.
Debbie Waller is a professional hypnotherapist, specialising in stress, anxiety and related issues. She also offers EMDR which is used for trauma, PTSD, phobias and OCD and publishes hypnotherapy-for-ibs.co.uk for those interested in using hypnotherapy to relieve the symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome.
Debbie owns a multi-accredited hypnotherapy school, Yorkshire Hypnotherapy Training and offers further training for qualified therapists via CPD Expert. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words, editor and contributor to the online magazine Hypnotherapy Training & Practitioner, and co-author of The Hypnotherapy Handbook.
For more information on any of these services, phone 01977 678593.
Researcher & drafter: Rachel Waller.