A psychologist has warned that South Africans are at greater danger of developing a gambling addiction while the country is under lockdown. It’s possible that this is related to a desire to get away from new and unpleasant realities.
Unemployment is at an all-time high in South Africa, according to a clinical psychologist who believes that reopening casinos may encourage some of the country’s most cash-strapped inhabitants to turn to gaming as a fast fix for their financial woes. A specialty clinic where Samukelisiwe Mthembu works treats drug addictions, food disorders, and other maladaptive behaviors like gambling addiction, among other conditions.
She claims that the lure of a quick fix provided by a gaming success might exacerbate the already precarious state of family food security. Individuals’ inhibitions may be further weakened as a result of alcohol use, leading them to gamble and dispute more, with the possibility of escalation into gender-based violence occurring. The behavior might also be utilized as a means of expressing oneself and escaping from the existing unpleasant reality.
Behaviour that is both new and escalating
Mthembu notes that during the most difficult lockout times, a significant rise in the number of new online bettors was seen. Although their bets remained modest, 64 percent of experienced gamblers increased the amount of time, money, or a combination of the two that they spent betting. To put it another way, more individuals were gambling than ever before, and those who had previously gambled increased their frequency of participation. Adding to this, Mthembu explains that gambling addiction operates in the same manner as any other addiction. The addicted person will go to tremendous lengths to get access to gambling establishments, just as the alcoholic would do practically everything to have a drink when he or she is in need of one. The additional financial strain that COVID-19 and lockout measures have placed on businesses is likely to exacerbate this situation.
When casinos reopen, Mthembu predicts that younger gamblers who began off with little sums would increase their spending and spend more money. He also predicts an increase in illicit gambling activities, which he believes is not improbable. Aside from that, acting out on their compulsive behavior is a rapid method to create emotions of pleasure for at least a short period of time. However, this is often followed by feelings of humiliation, which may lead to aggressiveness and violence.
The Addiction to Gambling Recurs in a Cycle
Pathological gamblers (and addicts of any sort) may intensify their risk-taking behavior if they are experiencing financial problems or interpersonal troubles, which have grown increasingly widespread as a result of the pandemic. Furthermore, because of the increased stress and increased amount of time spent at home, Mthembu said that developing a harmful cycle of gambling, winning, losing, and desperation would be simpler than ever before.
During their frantic attempts to recoup their losses, and their inability to quit even after they have recovered their losses, life savings, family relationships, and jobs are all significantly jeopardized, and in some cases, completely destroyed. In extreme cases of desperation, people may resort to criminal activity in order to pay their addictions and support their families.
The need to “escape” increases as a result of the lockdown.
Gambling may also be associated with other addictions, whether they be to processes (such as shopping addiction or an eating problem) or substances (such as cocaine addiction) (such as drugs or alcohol). In the brain, all of these behaviors result in the release of dopamine, and chasing after that sensation of bliss in order to “escape” reality becomes a major component of addictive behavior – particularly during this tough period.
Despite the fact that gambling addiction is a complicated condition that encompasses emotional, cognitive, and physical components, it is treatable. Mthembu, on the other hand, believes that this is considerably more effective in a long-term therapy setting. It might take years to pick out the seeds that may have been sowed during the desperation of lockdown, as well as the roots that may have continued to grow.