Winning large sums of money can be a thrill for a lot of people out there, it is a fantasy that a lot of individuals have. It is this desire that the gambling and casino businesses thrive on and essentially make their money, leaving the addict in financial ruin. Of course, there are individuals who can enjoy gambling without becoming addicted to the thrill and rush of earning quick cash, however, individuals who have naturally addictive personalities can form strong attachments to the feeling that gambling (especially when winning) gives them. This addiction can be compared with drug, alcohol and smoking addictions. It is clear that the rewards are somewhat irresistible.
How does an addiction develop?
Gambling addictions can often develop from individuals attempting to escape from difficult or testing times in their life, so they look at gambling as a form of release and a form of positivity. Some individuals can develop the addiction from seeing friends and family involved in gambling culture and wanting to experience it for themselves.
These compulsive tendencies stimulate the brain’s reward system, and in turn leads to bet chasing, causing the sufferer to lie, cheat and continuously gamble until they get the next ‘hit’ of their success. This creates a snowball affect, with the addict often hiding their addictive tendencies from friends and family, and in turn causing a downward spiral.
Do all addictions start and end with your brain?
Naturally, gambling tendencies are more common in single individuals as it can often be harder to develop an addiction if you are with a partner. It is also said that individuals that have gone through a separation or divorce are more likely to gamble as they are often trying to escape the difficult realities that they are faced with.
The effect on men and women
Gambling problems can affect both men and women but in slightly different ways. Notoriously, it is more likely men to be addicted to gambling rather than women, however, it has been said by Belmar Health that women can become addicted quicker, but later on in life. The two sexes slightly differ in how they handle the emotional distress and anxiety that comes with the gambling addiction, and we are going to explore why.
Women tend to be a lot more emotional and more likely to cry or be depressed when they experience periods of losing during gambling. Men react in a slightly more aggressive manner, channeling their distress into attacking or even kicking their gaming machine. Researchers at the University of Adelaide, the Australian Gambling Research Centre and Swinburne University of Technology in Australia conducted these findings.
Studies on gambling addiction
In addition to this, there were two large studies conducted in Australia of regular gamblers (1185 in total, 580 men, and 605 women) of these individuals, 338 were classified as ‘problem gamblers’ or in easier terms, people that were considered addicted. In short, both sexes were found to experience the same problem gambling symptoms, but as the aforementioned states, men tend to lash out more in anger in comparison to women. The researchers advise that staff be trained to better identify behavioural indicators, to interpret these as a whole within the greater context, and on how to confidently use such information in their interaction with men and women.
Why men and women react differently when addicted
The other question is: why do men and women react so differently to these situations mentioned above?
It is naturally a stereotype that women show their emotions more than men, and has almost become a stigma in today’s society. It was reported by The Great Course Daily that:
“The corpus callosum is the fiber tract that joins the left and right hemispheres in the brain and is often cited as one of the regions that shows robust sexual dimorphisms: women tend to have larger and more bulbous corpus callosa than men, and this finding has been interpreted as showing that women have more communication between hemispheres, and think more holistically.”
This can be a scientific and logical explanation as to why women tend to react more emotionally to situations as addicts over men. This can also potentially be a link to why women can sometimes have an emotional response when drinking, or taking drugs.
Another study, conducted back in 1996 by Farris et al concluded that The age groups 18-29 and 40-49 were more likely to report gambling problems, with 30 to 39-year-olds less involved, and those 50 and up in age reporting the fewest gambling problems. This indicates that even 21 years ago, younger age ranges are more likely to be affected by said gambling addictions. Another insight made by Farris was that individuals who naturally have a dependency or addiction to drugs or alcohol are more likely to retain or develop a gambling addiction. It is seemingly obvious that the two go hand in hand.
Problems with gambling online
Despite the aforementioned studies and general statistics are relative to gambling in a casino scenario, it is also important to consider online gambling and how this can often be worse from a casino setting. With the growth of technology and individuals being able to live their lives through the click of a button, it is evident that online gambling is also becoming a problem, and can often be harder to combat, despite the continued efforts by the industry to self-regulate, the potential rewards can be irresistible as they are so easily accessible.
It was reported by TechAddiction that online gambling could be considered more dangerous for someone who is addicted, as it is less likely to be spotted by friends and family and bank details are readily available online. TechAddiction also states that there is little regulation available to ban addicted individuals from online gambling in comparison to things that can be put in place at a casino. Individuals who suffer from chronic addictions can often be banned from a casino to stop them from spiraling. With online gambling, it’s nearly physically impossible to implement this.
These statements are also supported by addictions.org who also identify that trying to spot visible signs of an online gambling addiction can often be harder to spot than traditional addictions to alcohol and drugs, as gambling in a casino and online can be seen as a ‘hidden illness’ due to lack of physical signs or symptoms.
The above statements are indeed true, and there have been horrific reports of individuals taking their own lives due to online gambling due to the effect it can have on them mentally. A university graduate from the UK in April last year committed suicide after racking up so many loan repayments and debts after university, causing him to jump from a building.
The victim’s father openly stated that his son had been leading a double life following the announcement of his death. This clearly indicates that loved ones can be oblivious to an individuals gambling addiction due to them being able to hide it online. The victim in question was an individual who had a well-paid accounting job, which was also brought up by his father, as he didn’t understand his son’s addiction due to his well-paid profession.
In the same article, Liz Carter, an online addiction therapist explained:
“Ever since online gambling began to get more and more prevalent, gambling addiction has leaped the social divide. Now, over 50 per cent of my clients, both male and female, are from a middle-class, professional background.”
Further, she also states that:
“Online gambling has given this type of higher earner private access to a product and service that they may not have previously been comfortable trying in public or person. You no longer have to leave your home to gamble – you can do it in the office, on the commute home or anywhere you have an Internet connection. And that is what makes it dangerous.”
Signs of an addict to watch out for (casino setting):
- Aggression towards staff in a casino
- Heightened emotions such as crying or shouting
- Asking to borrow large sums of money from either friends/family/loan companies
- Lying and trying to conceal the addiction from loved ones
- Concealing their appearance in casinos or other gambling venues in fear of being spotted.
- Already has a dependency on drugs, cigarettes or alcohol
- Has poor spending habits/outstanding payments on rent, bills etc yet still goes out and gambles/drinks
Signs of an addict to watch out for (online setting):
- Asking to borrow large sums of money, having outstanding debt
- Already has a dependency on drugs, cigarettes or alcohol
- Is secretive over whereabouts is consistently on suspicious websites on their mobile/tablet/laptop
- If a loved one is secret over internet history
- If a loved one is spending unusual amounts of cash without explanation
If you know someone who is struggling with a gambling addiction, there is a multitude of websites and hotlines that you can get in touch with to get the individual the help and guidance they need. Alternatively, look out for the points mentioned above to stop an addiction forming in its tracks before it’s too late.
If you are struggling with an addiction, the first step is admitting your problem to a friend or a loved one. The next steps will then be put in place so you are able to get yourself back on track and rid yourself of the addiction for good.