Gambling relapse – Power of relapse

Gambling Relapse: the lowest of the low. If you’ve ever relapsed, you know the feeling. But what if there was another way? What if you could use the power of relapse to your advantage? Check out this guide, and we’ll show you how.

  • Transform self-hatred into learning experiences.
  • Learn to build stronger defenses.
  • Forgive yourself through self-empathy.
how you can take advantage of a mistake - how you deal with gambling relapse in a different way.
Video 1 – Relapse Introduction

Change The Approach
To Relapse

For most, gambling relapse equals PAIN, PAIN, and more PAIN. Primarily this feeling usually comes from shame, hopelessness, self-loathing, and anger. But also from external sources, like lost respect. In some help groups, abstinence is everything, and suddenly, you’re back on square one.

Looking for synonyms to relapse is just as depressing.

Other words for relapse


Did You Ever Succeed with Anything Important on Your First Try?

  • How often did you fall on your backside before you learned to walk properly?
  • Were you a natural biker the first time you rode a bike, or did you need support wheels?
  • Was your first date a success where you confidently said and did all the right things?

Why Would Stopping Gambling Be Any Different?

We want to upgrade the view on relapse because we need a more helpful way to see relapse.

Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising up every time we fail.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
when gambling urges cause a gambling relapse - you get overwhelmed.
The urge becomes too strong to handle.

We believe gambling relapse is an integral part of the stop gambling process. Logically, no one wants to relapse. But if you do, you should make the most of it. Let’s begin by looking at what happens during a relapse:

When relapsing, you give in to the urge to gamble. The desire becomes too strong to handle, and your defenses aren’t strong enough. This leads to you playing slot machines or table games, placing bets on sports, etc.

Let’s repeat: “The gambling urge becomes too strong to handle, and your defenses are not strong enough.”

There are 2 components to relapse:

  • The urge becomes too strong.
  • The defenses are too weak.

Does this make you a bad person? No, it makes you human – a human being who needs some help. To prevent future relapses, you need to decrease the urge to gamble and plan for similar future events; what should you do next time?

Gambling Relapse = Valuable Information

What happened when you had a gambling relapse? What can you lean from it?
Video 2 – Identify and remove triggers

Relapse can be a valuable source of information if you choose to analyze what happened and why. You’re probably familiar with gambling triggers and how these triggers can be both external and internal.

External Triggers
Ads and TV Commercials
Conversations about gambling
Physical places and things
Smells you associate with gambling
Life stressors (e.g., illness, work, interpersonal conflicts); flashing lights or other imagery that is familiar to casinos and gambling marketing
Internal Triggers
Your Thoughts
Your Feelings
Your Needs

In our video course: ‘Creating a Change Plan,’ we identify and remove triggers. A change plan is a dynamic document. It means that you should continually update it by adding to it. If you relapse, you can choose to condemn yourself or see it as a chance to improve and make your change plan more powerful.

Let’s do the latter by analyzing what led to the relapse.

Take some time, and ask yourself the following questions

  • What were you doing when the urge hit you?
  • What did you do then?
  • Did you see or hear anything?
  • Where were you?
  • Did something happen that day that triggered some painful feelings?
  • What were you thinking of when you got the urge to gamble?
  • Were there any external triggers involved?
list of questions to better understand why you had a gambling relapse

If you want some help organizing your thoughts and answers, you can download our “Relapse Template” here.

These questions will hopefully give you a better understanding of what happened.

At Quit Gamble, we believe pain is the cause of addiction and that gambling is a way to escape that pain. We use pain as a collective word for feelings we don’t want to feel, like stress, loneliness, boredom, anger, anxiety, etc.

Can you identify any pain that might have triggered your relapse?

Building Your Defenses

Quote of Shania Twain:
Shame on you if you fouled me once, shame on me if you fouled me twice.

Understanding what triggered the relapse is key to preventing it from happening again. Because yes, you’re likely to end up in the same situation repeatedly. The good news is that you can change the outcome if you’re prepared for it!

We’ll prepare your defense in the ‘Change Plan’ course. In that one, we talk about distraction strategies, such as, if situation X happens, you’ll do actions A, B, or C.

Illustration of sitation you might gamble and 3 counter strategies to prevent gambling relapse you can use
Example of a situation when a person might feel an urge to gamble and 3 counter strategies to deal with the urge.
How to become proactive towards gambling relapse
Video 3 – Become proactive when you want to stop gambling

List situations where you’re at risk of relapsing. Write down 1-3 things you’ll do next time the situation occurs. It’ll take some time, but it’s worth the effort. And do you know what? By doing this, you’ve already started on your ‘Change Plan!’ (We’re cheering for you!) By working proactively and preparing for future events, you’ve taken the first big step in your journey towards a gambling-free life.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, we need to discuss another element of relapse: the pain relapse creates. Self-hatred, shame, guilt, hopelessness, and anger are common feelings after a relapse. And, as you know by now, PAIN IS THE CAUSE OF ADDICTION. The more pain, the stronger the urge to gamble becomes. is all about fighting pain, and that’s why we have created plenty of recourses to help you. Together, we’ll build your defenses to prevent relapse from happening. 

Self-Empathy – How To Forgive Yourself

The following video is part of our ‘Nonviolent Communication (NVC)’ course. We believe this course can profoundly impact compulsive gamblers’ chances of quitting gambling. In essence, we create a lot of pain through negative interactions with ourselves and others. It’s okay if you don’t understand every concept in the video; it’s from lesson 12. Here is an example of how I applied self-empathy to understand my self-hatred better while playing Padel.

Forgive yourself for gambling relapse, and start understand why it happened.
Video 4 – How to understand and forgive yourself.

Let’s apply what we learned about self-empathy to gambling relapse.
We recommend downloading our free ‘NVC Relapse Template’ as extra support.

Use Self-Empathy to gambling relapse

We’ve created a fictive case and person to properly discuss, talk through, and inform you about some scenarios related to gambling relapses. Here’s the case: last night, “Samantha” went to the casino for the first time in 3 months.

Let’s apply self-empathy and see what happens.

Thinking back on the relapse, what do you say to yourself?

  • I can’t believe how stupid I am; why do I never learn?
  • I’ll never be able to stop gambling.
  • I’m an irresponsible jackass who lets everybody down.
  • I’m weak.

While caught in the situation, what did you feel?

  • I felt angry and frustrated for not learning from previous mistakes.
  • I was terrified of not being able to control myself and stop.
  • I felt ashamed, weak, and self-hatred/loathing for letting people down.

In the past, you would probably have stopped after step two full of these negative emotions with one question in your head: what’s wrong with me? 

Can you relate to that? Try to remember how you felt after you relapsed and write it down.

In ‘Nonviolent Communication,’ we talk about the connection between your feelings and needs. It’s your needs in a situation that determines how you feel. Confused? Then we highly recommend you watch the entire ‘NVC’ course.

In the next step, we’ll look at what needs were present when “Samantha” relapsed.

Which need did you try to meet when you gambled?

  • I had a rough day at work arguing with a colleague. It made me feel low, sad and stressed. Gambling usually calms me down. When I gamble, for a moment, nothing else matters. Despite all the blinking graphics and sound effects, it’s quiet in my head.
  • I needed calm and relaxation. Get away from the
    stress and negative thoughts.

When you get in touch with your feelings and needs, you suddenly understand why you did something. It wasn’t out of stupidity; you tried to meet a particular need. You had a choice.

Try this to see if you still feel self-hatred, angry, frustrated, ashamed, or guilty. We guess that something happens inside you. Something changes and these feelings transform into sadness or mourning.

If you understand why you did something, why are you still sad? Because when you relapsed, you failed to meet some other needs. For “Samantha,” these needs were:

What need did you fail to meet when you gambled?

  • The trust in my abilities.
  • My need for development.
  • My partner’s trust.

What needs did you fail to meet?

It’s okay to be sad when you fail at something important. Mourning is a solid motivator for change, not because you feel shame or guilt, but because you want to change. By transforming self-hatred, frustration, and anger into mourning, you gain the ability to learn from your mistakes.

Remember Emerson; “The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.“

A gambling relapse is a temporary mistake. What you need is a more robust strategy. One that can help you decrease the urge to gamble and, at the same time, build stronger defenses. That’s what is all about.

Gambling Relapse Prevention Plan

Connection between pain and the urge to gamble. Get your plan to prevent gambling relapse

Pain is the driving force of addiction. At, you’ll find tools to identify what causes pain in your life (the Happiness Test). We’ll help you decrease the pain through video courses, live chat, support groups, and our online community.

A happy person is more resistant to addiction because they have less pain to escape. Do you think you’d gamble less if you didn’t feel bored, stressed, lonely, or worried?

Addiction is a defense mechanism against pain. The reason it’s so hard to stop gambling is that no matter how destructive gambling can be, it still helps you escape your pain.

If we can reduce the pain, we believe the urge to gamble will decrease.
That’s the best gambling relapse prevention plan we have to offer.


Pain feeds the addiction. If you only see the negatives of relapse, it’ll only add more pain, strengthening your gambling urge. But, if you take advantage of the information relapse provides, you can use it to boost your gambling relapse prevention plan. In that way, you’ll strengthen your defenses.

By showing yourself self-empathy, you’ll understand why you relapsed. Understanding is key to forgiving yourself, which will decrease the pain. Less pain equals a lower risk of relapsing.

Self-empathy can also transform feelings like self-hatred, shame, guilt, and anger into emotions that’ll boost your motivation to change.

When you start working on the things that cause pain in your life, you begin reducing that pain. You’re no longer just counting gambling-free days; you’re now working proactively on upgrading your life. With this, we believe your chances to kick addiction’s ass are better than ever before!

Good luck!

Founder of QuitGamble Anders Bergman
Written by Anders Bergman
Anders Bergman, MSc, MA Anders is the editor-in-chief of all content on He is also the author of…more about Anders Bergman
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Clinically reviewed by Dr Jane Oakes
Dr. Jane Oakes PhD   Professional Summary Dr. Jane Oakes Ph.D. is a renowned expert in the field of…more about Dr Jane Oakes