An Increase In Women’s Gambling Addiction
Gambling is a hidden addiction and hidden further within that addiction is the story of female gamblers and women who are affected others. The number of women gambling in the UK has increased significantly in recent years. And the vulnerability of women to the effects of problem gambling – directly or indirectly – has increased alongside that too.
While the cost to society of men being addicted gamblers is huge, the cost of the impact on women is often greater and wider. Current data shows a growing number of women requiring treatment with gambling associated issues.
Last year, across Gamcare, Gamble Aware and Gambling Therapy (as part of the National Gambling Treatment Service) 30% of helpline calls came from women, with 59% seeking help for another and 41% seeking help for themselves. This equates to 9,000 women.
Last year saw an increase of more than 100,000 women going to our Gambling Therapy website, taking the total number of hits from women to more than one million. Of the total (one million-plus hits) ‘hits’, nearly 90,000 were from the UK. This is a 76% increase from the previous year.
However, the true number of women needing help is unknown, and it is beyond reasonable doubt that women are under-represented in gambling specific treatment. We at Gordon Moody have been addressing this for a number of years now, and we have plans to expand our treatment capacity next year to help urgently deal with this growing challenge in society.
Overcoming Barriers To Gambling Harm Treatment
Our women’s retreat and counselling programme received 160 applications for the 36 places available last year. This programme is run three times a year with 12 participants at a time and provides respite, counselling and work alongside others with lived experience to devise an effective programme of treatment that recognises the wider issues surrounding gambling disorder in women.
However, while there is a growing visibility of women reaching out to us for help there is still work required to ensure that women get the right support, right treatment and the right environment to deal with the range of complex issues that need to be tackled to help them address their gambling disorder.
A phrase we feel sums this up is that: “Women are uniquely skilled at keeping it all together while falling apart”. And ‘falling apart’ can be them personally, because of gambling addiction or dealing with the impact of it within a relationship or family situation. And ‘keeping it all together’ can mean result in women being reluctant to explore anything other than short-term interventions to help their gambling disorder.
There is also a need to overcome other barriers. Firstly, there is the issue of perceived stigma and shame of entering a longer-term rehabilitation, and there are also very practical questions around safeguarding, childcare and other family responsibilities. That can mean that for some they opt to just ‘put a toe in the water’ when the reality is that they need more extensive and intensive residential therapy treatment in order to turn their lives around.
A New Approach
With this in mind and with the large proportion of women seeking support as an affected other, we intend to create next year an evidence-based and service-user led centre that provides a residential treatment programme for women severely affected by gambling disorders, as well as respite, counselling and support for families of gamblers.
We have based our model around the evidence for the need for treatment from our own female service users. Service users will engage with those with lived experience and using the latest research we will devise a programme that effectively recognises the wider issues surrounding gambling disorder in women. Our programme will be inclusive of LGBT+ and BAME communities as well as other ethnic and minority groups as UK Gambling Commission evidences the prevalence of gambling-related harm to be higher among these groups.
- We are setting up a residential treatment centre that will initially cater for 24 women with disordered gambling on a yearly basis.
- Women from ethnic and minority groups will benefit by being able to access support matched to their needs.
- Friends and families of the affected gambler will also benefit through counselling and we aim to provide support for up to 120 women a year affected by another’s gambling.
- Those working in the sector of problem gambling treatment will benefit from additional data and training that we will make available.
Where Do We Go From Here?
People can and do recover, if you or a loved one are in need of help please reach out for support.
Written by women’s retreat & counselling programme manager, Jane Fahy.