Depression and gambling (or gambling and depression) go hand-in-hand.
Like kleptomaniacs who steal items not for monetary gain, addicted pokie (slot) machine players gamble not to win but to feed the machines. They no longer see the value of money and every piece of twenty (fifty or hundred) dollar note is like a piece of paper going through the shredder. They would play until they lost every cent and come out of the local pub or casino feeling emotionless and penniless.
For many gamblers the brain can enter a trance-like state while gambling, and so the everyday problems of life recede.
“People gamble to escape bad relationships, or work pressures a range of perceived problems, but some are obviously gambling in an attempt to escape from the sadness, anxiety and other troubling thoughts that are the symptoms of a mental illness,”
Quote – Professor Shane Tomas, Problem Gambling Research and Treatment Centre
Problem Gambling Foundation of New Zealand has the below definition of gambling.
Problem gambling refers to gambling that significantly interferes with a person’s life, especially with their finances, their job, and their relationships with partner, family, and friends.
Pathological gambling is the most severe form and is classified as a mental disorder similar to drug abuse. It includes features of tolerance, withdrawal, diminished control, and relinquishing of important activities.
At-risk gambling refers to a level of gambling that is not currently causing significant financial or emotional harm to the gambler, but is likely to become problem gambling if it continues.
Affected others are people who are harmed by someone else’s gambling— usually partners, family, whanau, and friends. This can take many forms, such as financial repercussions for the whole family, unhappy home life, alienation from family and friends, and crimes committed against employers or other people.
Pokie machines are designed to make money and make you forget the outside world. They use dark backgrounds and deep but bright colours to attract and stimulate your brain. They use sound and light at random times to disorient you and trigger the near- miss effect to get you hooked. When you get a win (free spins), the cheerful background music makes you excited and you lost track of time.
- When a pokie machine gives a false impression that you “almost won” it will trigger the same areas in your brain as if you had really won. These are also the same areas which are involved in drug addiction!
- No matter what you do to a pokie machine, you cannot change what it is programmed to do. A pokie machine is a computer designed to take in more money than it pays out; there is no skill or trick to cheat it.
“The paradox with gambling is that if you win, you lose. If you lose, you lose. If you win, the high consumes your mind until you’re back in action. If you lose, you crash and chase your losses to regain that high.”
– quote unknown
Some people regard gambling or playing the pokies as a form of entertainment. This is so only if one goes to the machine with a limit. For problem or pathological gamblers, when gambling becomes a financial or emotional harm to them or those around them, the act is no longer a harmless leisure pursuit. It is a pain and addiction that is difficult to stop.
Let’s hope these symptoms are only evanescent. May they melt away as quickly as they come.