Nowadays, a couple of clicks on your phone is all that it takes. Female gamblers are on the rise and while the stigma around women gamblers is decreasing, more women gamblers are reporting gambling problems recently than ever before.
The Covid-29 pandemic, anxiety, loneliness, as well as the ease of access to gambling at home on the internet and on a smart device has made it more convenient than ever to just “make a quick bet”. But increasingly, what started off as simple recreation or distraction, ends up spiraling out of control. Now, more women than ever are coming forward with their stories of secret gambling habits that ruined them.
How it starts
It’s a common story that many addicts have. Everyone starts for slightly different reasons: it’s nice, it’s calming, it’s an escape, or it’s just plain exciting. After that initial honeymoon period is over, however, it becomes a nightmare and a trap. It no longer is exciting. That rush is gone, and instead you’re chasing that initial feeling or simply on autopilot.
Many factors can drive someone into a state of mind in which they feel they have no control, such as depression, loneliness in lockdown or life circumstances, or even financial troubles. When it comes to gambling, people start for various reasons, but falling into the lifestyle of an addict can be a very slippery slope indeed.
One of the most common factors in female gambling addiction is escapism. The majority of women seeking treatment for addiction state that it all started with the simple desire to get away from it all — the stressors or unpleasant aspects of their lives that may be hard to face.
Women tend to have a more narrow focus when gaming, which allows for complete absorption in the game itself. It’s very easy to let go of the stresses of everyday life when you have a distraction to pour your attention into.
A vicious cycle
Gaming and gambling, however, do have the potential to add more financial stress to the player’s life in the long run. Whether racking up losses on an online casino or playing hooky from work by playing video games, both activities can ultimately cause more financial problems, causing a vicious cycle of escapism and loss.
The original plan to relax and take a break from the real world can be overshadowed and what players were originally trying to escape, only ends up leading to perpetually chasing a loss and always trying to win back enough to get by.
Right at home
Women, in particular, can be susceptible to this new world of iGaming. With smartphones, the casino is never farther away than your own pocket. Traditionally the brick and mortar casinos, bookies, and other gaming institutions were a male-dominated sphere. That’s, of course, not true anymore, but there are still gender stereotypes and norms that are hard to shake.
It’s socially acceptable to see a man walk into a casino at all hours of the day, but there’s still a level of judgment that happens when a woman does this. Removing the casino locale entirely erases the stigma in the addict’s mind and allows them to experiment with gaming at an unprecedented level. Women who normally would have no interest in taking a loan at a casino can easily access the same offers and begin gambling over the phone.
Differences between men & women
Dissertations could be written on this subject but for our intents and purposes, this field of research is a bit more specific when it comes to men and women in gambling.
Men tend to become addicted to gambling chasing a thrill. The excitement of the game and the win are usually the catalysts for male players to get hooked on the game.
The majority of women on the other hand tend to get addicted to gambling through escapism. One addiction center says that an overwhelming majority of women addicted to gambling (around 75%) that they treated were middle-class women trying to juggle careers, relationships, and children.
It’s those looking to use gambling as a form of escapism that puts women at a higher risk of acquiring a compulsive gambling addiction that ends up causing financial loss, family estrangement, and overwhelming guilt.
What you can do
As with any addiction, getting professional help is the most important thing. If you’re feeling like you’re in trouble you can check out any of these resources here to seek help.
A common factor in many stories of other women addicts is beginning the process of communication and openness about their addiction. Bringing their secret lives into the light, talking about it, and normalizing it with their family members helped reduce the stigma and shame they originally felt and allowed them to seek help and treatment openly with the full support of their family.