Gambling addiction can be tough to identify as suffers sometimes display no outward signs of their problem. New research suggests that there are differences between how and why men and women gamble to excess. Furthermore, femaile problem gambling is on the rise in the UK.Gambling addicts suffer no less than those addicted to substances, but they are most certainly more difficult to identify. There may be as many as over half a million problem gamblers in the UK, but the internet is making it ever easier to gamble from home.
Like substance abuse, gambling provides a high. The anticipation and thrill of winning can soon become addictive, and there never seems to be a good time to stop. If you win, you might be on a lucky streak; if you lose, you need to win back what you’ve lost. Also like substance abuse, gambling can affect other areas of the gambler’s life. Many gambling addicts are also addicted to alcohol, and rates of depression and suicide are around double the national average. Lastly, like substance abuse, gambling can lead to crime. The need to find money to pay for a habit can culminate in theft, burglary and fraud.
Gambling was historically a man’s game, but a new generation of women are now suffering from gambling addiction. You only have to turn on the television to see hundreds of advertisements showcasing online bingo and poker, and online games appeal to women more than traditional betting shops. Cultural anthropologist Natasha Dow Schull says there is a significant difference between male and female gamblers: ‘Men gamble for a cocaine-like rush, women for a methadone-like numbness.’
Indeed, studies have found that some women spend up to 10 hours a day online, neglecting their children and pushing multiple credit cards to the limit. Keeping their addiction a complete secret, these women turn off the internet once their partners return home. It can therefore be extremely difficult to identify a gambling addiction and help a loved one or friend, but there are a number of supportive groups out there for those who wish to find help.
Thankfully, gambling addiction can be treated in much the same way as substance addiction. Cognitive behavioural therapy has proven a successful method, as the same techniques are used that help substance users and addicts. Underlying problems are treated that cause the impulsive behaviour, so that gambling addicts can ultimately become free of their dependency.