It’s no secret that the COVID-19 pandemic, while being a physical illness, has had an incredibly negative impact on our mental health. Across the world, mental health experts have reported seeing a rising number of people struggling with mental health issues. Loneliness, social distancing, loss of employment, lack of framework and support, and fear about the future, all have negatively affected people, but especially women.
Women are usually those left dealing with work-from-home problems, lack of childcare options, school closures, lack of community support and worry about ageing parents and their families’ health. Women are probably the ones taking care of the kids and household during the day and catching up with work at night. It’s not surprising then, that women’s mental health has been even more affected during lockdown, with many developing disorders or addictions, or regressing back to issues that were, up until now, under control. Among these are eating disorders, depression and problem gambling. The bottom line is that lockdown has made problem gambling amongst women a much bigger issue.
How Lockdowns own Exacerbates Problem Gambling
Around 2 million people in the UK are diagnosed as problem gamblers or at risk of developing an addiction. According to Gamcare, which supports and treats gambling related problems, over the past five years, the number of women who reported a problem has risen at twice the rate of men. Add to that a pandemic, and we are sure to see the numbers climb even more.
“Problem gambling starts when someone starts to depend on gambling to change a low mood for the better, then they develop a dependency on it,” explains therapist Liz Karter, in an article in the Huffington Post.
Lockdowns have a devastating effect on problem gamblers, and have proven to be the catalyst for those who are at risk of developing a dependency. Women may choose different ways to numb their feelings and fears, including alcohol, drugs or gambling. They will use gambling to escape their difficult reality of being locked up, usually with their children. The fun, enticing and potentially rewarding world of gambling provides them with a respite.
The Appeal of Online Gambling
Online gambling has been a game changer in allowing women to find a safe and comfortable space to gamble in. Around 70% of women who gamble use apps and websites for their gambling entertainment. Inevitably, some of these women have developed problems. Women with problem gambling habits describe the act as a form of mediation that doesn’t require much thought. It allows them to switch off and lose touch with reality. When that reality is especially bad (like in lockdown), they manage to escape.
Of course there’s the flip side – where losing touch with reality means that players aren’t aware of how much money they are spending and potentially losing. That’s where the problems can really start, because problem gamblers are known to lose unaffordable amounts of money.
But There’s Good News Too
Statistics show that despite growing numbers and even with the pandemic, the vast majority of people who gamble do not develop gambling problems. They approach gambling in the same way as they would any other form of paid entertainment, and they will know their limits. They will not spend money that they cannot afford to lose, and they will know when to stop.
There are only two safe ways to approach gambling. One is to not gamble at all, and the other is to play free games which won’t give the same adrenaline rush as you’d get from playing with real money. Neither options are ideal, especially if you are among the majority of players who won’t develop a gambling problem, and who want to enjoy everything that the exciting world of online gambling has to offer.
If you’re not an alcoholic, and don’t have alcoholic tendencies, you won’t refrain from enjoying a glass of wine. Nor will you only drink soda in case you develop an addiction. The same goes for gambling.
How to Identify Problem Gambling
According to this list, these are the signs of problem gambling:
- Spending more time or money on gambling than intended
- Arguing with family and friends after gambling
- After losing at gambling, having an urge to return as soon as possible to chase losses.
- Feeling guilty or remorseful about gambling
- Borrowing money or selling assets to gamble
- Obtaining money to gamble through illegal channels
- Missing work or other commitments to gamble
- Hiding the gambling habit or the extent of the habit