Before the Shift
People often associate gambling and gambling addiction with men and masculinity. Exclusionary perspectives such as these are an even bigger concern in healthcare settings.
Influenced by these ideas, research, and the treatment approaches that proceed it, are heavily male-dominant.
This makes sense.
It’s impossible to expect human beings to completely strip themselves of their biases and notions, which applies to gambling addiction researchers and gambling counselors.
Unfortunately, this meant that for decades, female problem gamblers were placed on the back burner.
In the late 80s and early 90s, a shift occurred where people – including researchers and counselors – started thinking about women gamblers.
This includes research about the areas female gamblers differ from their male counterparts and in what ways. Furthermore, women-only gambling addiction groups started popping up during this time.
These steps were crucial in gaining quality support for female gambling addicts. In fact, these changes sparked a much needed re-evaluation of the one-size-fits-all approach to a more socio-cultural dynamic.
Consequently, the shift caused a demand for more research and literature on the topic.
After the Shift
Prior to the 90s, research participants were predominantly male.
Meaning, the results catered to men, but were applied to the rest of the population nonetheless. With the research and literature produced in the 90s and beyond, it is now clear just how problematic this method was.
Women gamblers differ from men in everything from their motivations to gamble to the actual games they played during active addiction (Problem Gambling Foundation, 2016).
The process by which women develop addiction is even different from a man’s (Problem Gambling Foundation, 2016).
More specifically, women’s roles in society seem to manifest themselves into the lives of female problem gamblers. Women tend to gamble using methods based on luck rather than competition, like scratchers or slots.
Similarly, the complete anonymity of online gambling is alluring to many female gamblers. Some online female gamblers even go as far as portraying themselves as men online.
Although, there are obviously women that do not follow any of these trends. This knowledge can help mold treatment approaches, in that the relationship a woman has with gambling is likely different than a man’s.
A Canadian study found that the population of female problem gamblers had higher rates of childhood physical abuse and sexual abuse than the general population (Boughton, 2003).
The general population has more females experiencing these issues than males. Thus, it is likely that these occurrences are more prevalent in female gambling addicts.
Another point highlighted the woman’s willingness to seek treatment. Some female gambling addicts are dating or married to drug, alcohol, or gambling addicts.
If their partner is against seeking treatment for themselves, women have a tendency to acquire the same viewpoint for their own gambling issues.
This aligns with the societal benefits of women being more submissive than men.
What Does This Mean as a Female Gambler?
Knowledge is power, which is particularly useful in recovery.
Gambling addiction is not a clear-cut disease. Personal experiences, society, and culture all impact its nature. The more you can learn about your own gambling addiction, the easier it will make your recovery. For example, identifying your triggers can be easier knowing why they trigger you.
If you regularly went to bingo halls on Sundays, and now you stay home instead, it might make sense if you were feeling depressed. By not maintaining the social interaction one had in active addiction during recovery, there’s going to be a feeling of loss.
Through a gendered analysis, it makes even more sense if one considers women’s societal roles, with social interactions often being on the forefront.
It’s safe to say that seeking treatment as a female problem gambler is considerably less difficult now, given the shift in research and literature.
However, that does not mean we should forget the considerable impact our gender (or race, socioeconomic status, religion, etc.) has on our addictive nature.
This is not to say you must, or should, only attend female-centered treatment groups. Instead, consider it as another tool in your box, ready to take out if needed.