Women are now the fastest growing population seeking help for gambling problems, and nearly one third of all problem gamblers are women. And although they usually start gambling later on in their lives than men – about 2/3rds of women who seek help for gambling problems being between the ages of 40 and 60 – they often develop problems at a much faster rate. They are also finding themselves increasingly impacted by the gambling problems of their partners, dependent children or elderly parents. As the available gambling has increased and become more accepted, women have been swept up into the gambling current.1
Women can develop gambling problems for many reasons, but the most common is to “escape” their problems: they gamble as a way to avoid people, circumstances, and/or emotions. When an escape gambler is feeling strong negative emotions (sadness, loneliness, anger, etc.) they may turn to gambling as a way to avoid confronting those emotions or the root causes of them.
Because of this, escape gamblers often lose track of time passing, money lost, and other people. Wins (or near-wins) become more exciting and may result in feelings of accomplishment or increased self-worth.
Some women may have gambled socially for many years without adverse effects, and then developed a problem following a significant lifestyle change(s). Events such as retirement, divorce or a personal loss (such as a death) may cause them to seek an escape. This is even more common amongst women who have suffered other addictions (drugs, alcohol) or compulsive or psychological disorders in the past.1
Although (as of May 21st, 2012) the research pertaining to legalized internet gambling is limited, research indicates that the isolated nature and easy access of internet gambling has a greater appeal to escape gamblers and people who are hiding their problems. Studies also show that women who are affected by gambling (either their own or a loved one’s) will usually hide the problem, which may lead them to become secretive, silenced by shame, and/or feel guilt and fear.1
Based on the above criteria, we can speculate that legalized internet gambling may have a strong appeal to women with a gambling problem, especially escape gamblers.
Certain elements of treatment may vary for men and women. For example, step 1 of a 12 step program (admitting powerlessness) can be most difficult for some escape gamblers who experienced a sense of power or freedom while gambling. Additional factors which may change the treatment for men and women include experience with abuse or the demands placed on a care-giver.
However, the potential for great success exists with the proper treatment: many women who have sought treatment report much greater satisfaction with their lives than ever before!2