Compulsive gambling is an illness that affects many people every day. In my work as a therapist I dealt with compulsive gambling and other problem behavior and watched as my clients tried different methods of controlling their gambling behavior. Some people would try to stop gambling by slowly tapering off and allowing themselves a little less gambling each week. Others used the “cold turkey” method and quit completely.
I also saw my clients use similar methods to try to control other unwanted behavior like overeating, smoking, nail biting, etc. After watching hundreds of people try to stop problem gambling and control their gambling problems, I have come to the conclusion that the best way to do it is by complete and immediate cessation. In other words, stop immediately and do not gamble at all.
There are obvious psychological reasons for this approach, but also some physiological ones as well. Psychologically speaking, trying to limit a problem behavior and ration it out is a losing battle because part of your psyche becomes the parent and the other, usually the subconscious, becomes the child. Your subconscious is actually quite powerful and controls some of your bodily functions, memory, and other important parts of your life. Pitting the conscious mind against the subconscious almost always results in the subconscious winning.
Another component of that struggle is that it is very tiring and drags out the inevitable. While problem gambling is an addiction you will have for life, just how much time and effort do you want to devote to that problem each day? Tapering off means you will still be dealing with it, thinking about it, measuring it and trying to limit it each day.
Most of my clients wanted to get over it and get on with their lives. We found the best way to do that was by reprogramming their subconscious minds with Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) and guided meditations that helped them to relieve the desire to gamble and also to relieve the stress caused by other areas of their lives.
Physiologically speaking, gambling is a behavior and therefore, each time that you gamble or even fantasize about gambling, synaptic loops are formed and reinforced in your brain. So even gambling less and limiting your gamble is stimulating those loops and making them stronger. When you think about limiting gambling you are still forming loops and strengthening them, so while you may think you are controlling the gambling, you are really reinforcing it and making it stronger so that when your subconscious is ready to make a power play, it will have a strong tool to use against your conscious mind.
If you are really serious about stopping gambling, the best method for dealing with compulsive gambling, then I suggest guided meditations, a good support group like Gamblers Anonymous, and complete cessation.