Anxiety can fuel a gambling problem.
Research has shown that there is a relation between the gambling and anxiety. The 2001–2002 National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions raised suggestions that people with problems in gambling or pathological gambling may also be dealing with anxiety disorders. Specifically, 11% deal with generalized anxiety disorder; almost 15% experience post-traumatic stress disorder; 22% have panic disorder; and 52% are possibly suffering from a specific phobia.
“Anxiety is an adaptation of that vital and fundamental fear response. Sometimes anxiety will tell you that the worst is true.” That is according to Kristine Tye, MA, LMFT. People who are anxious may turn to gambling as a way of dealing with their problems. Some of them say that when they bet, they can separate their anxiety or turn their anxiety into excitement. Thus, the action of gambling becomes a part of their life to the point that it may overwhelm them.
Thus, to elicit change such as removing the gambling behavior, one might need to reduce or alleviate anxiety first. There are ways to do so.
A complete psychological and physiological opposite of anxiety and worry is relaxation. Whereas panic and anxiety may show increased heart rate and the need to gasp for air, with relaxing comes a slower heart rate, lower blood pressure, and calm mind. If one practices to rest regularly, the effects can be significant. Although it may seem too simple, relaxing is genuinely a way by which people can learn how to counteract anxiety, as both cannot occur at once. However, true relaxation goes more than just watching TV while on the couch. Karin Draper, LMFT explains that “Anxiety can often lead to substance abuse as a means to cope, particularly for those experience social anxiety or those who experience a high level of stress and struggle to find other means of relaxation.”
There are times when anxiety levels reach high that people feel psychologically and physically bothered and uncomfortable. During these times, relaxation exercise like identifying, defusing triggers, and breaking cycles of anxiety, can help with them. One should also practice doing it daily and regularly so that they will know what to do all the time.
Pure relaxation isn’t easy, but one can get better at it through practice. Activities that help both the body and mind relax include meditation and yoga. This helps someone be more aware of their body and recognize when it’s becoming too intense. These are also easily done at your home.
A great strategy is to mix the breathing exercise with the muscle relaxation exercises earlier along with visualization.
Visualizations work better if the individual believes that it is a safe place and if he uses the senses to imagine it to include details. This can help one to forget the negative thoughts. For example, you can imagine going to the park. In time and with enough practice, he can imagine even the birds they hear in the park, the smell of the grass, the sun on the skin, and the grass beneath the feet.
Things people do to alleviate their anxiety is by distracting themselves. Therefore, doing something else other than gambling can help focus one’s attention and concern from the negative thoughts and worry. Once this alleviates the stress, there might be a reduction in the need to gamble. “To quell overwhelm, engage in an activity that you enjoy, such as listening to music, reading a book or taking a walk. And consider how you can solve the stressors that triggered your overwhelm in the first place” Marla W. Deibler, PsyD elaborates.
Doing another activity unrelated to gambling may mean finding new hobbies or going back to old interests. If done continuously, they may evolve in such a way that it takes over the coping mechanism of gambling to reduce anxiety and ultimately replace it. There’s no need to think too hard on what to do. It can be something as simple as reading fictional books, drawing, or listening to new music like BTS.
Dropping gambling isn’t something that can be done in a short time, just like how Rome wasn’t built in a day. It would take time as it would require many changes in their lifestyle like getting new skills. There will be times wherein the person involved might regress, but it’s part of the process. It takes baby steps to make significant changes, not giant leaps.