“...I learn that poker is an addiction. A powerful drug that consumes you. Utter those magic words and they have the same meaning as the word crack, meth, or heroin to a feign.”
Shataya Simms, The Rake
Kane was absolutely right. Gambling is an addiction. A brain disease, to be exact—located in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) under Substance-Related and Addictive Disorders. Although the cause of Gambling Disorder is not well known, what we do know is that gambling is addictive due to the way it activates the brain’s reward systems similar to how a drug would. We also know that many times, Gambling Disorder is a manifestation of an underlying mental illness. In other words, although one may have a gambling addiction, they also may be suffering from depression and gambling is their way of coping with that depression. 76% of people who have Gambling Disorder are also likely to have a depressive disorder. Now, let’s look at some of the characters in The Rake:
Chicago: Chicago was the easy going, carefree elderly man in the story. Nothing seemed to be bothering him. He knew why he was homeless. He gambled everything away and he had come to terms with that. Right? The story showed a glimpse of how he could have been suffering from some sadness--maybe even depression. He was homeless, his estranged wife wanted nothing to do with him, and he had been separated from his children as well. All of these are significant reasons one would fall into a depression. Could that be the reason he fell deeper into his gambling addiction?
Aaron: Aaron’s character seemed to be misguided from the beginning. He never seemed to be in control. The biggest indication of this was finding out that he was really a gay man who liked to indulge in women’s clothing from time to time. Could you imagine having to hide who you really are just to uphold your family name? Seems like a good reason to be depressed to me. Could gambling just be the coping mechanism Aaron used to escape underlying depression?
What’s disheartening is that Blacks are two times more likely to be diagnosed with Gambling Disorder. Could this be because we experience more traumatic events and risk factors than other races? Or, could it just be because we are not as equipped with the tools necessary to cope with traumatic experiences? Whatever the reason, the consequences of Gambling Disorder are paramount—the loss of family, friends, jobs, homes, etc. Perhaps the biggest consequence is that many children of those diagnosed with Gambling Disorder end up being compulsive gamblers themselves.
Because the Gambling Disorder is not as understood as other mental health disorders, the best thing we can do for ourselves is take preventative measures. This means seeking help when you’ve experienced something traumatic. If you think you may be depressed, seek help so that you don’t end up coping in a detrimental way. We have to heal ourselves from everyday trauma as well as generational trauma—for ourselves, for our children, and for our children’s children.
If you feel that you are a compulsive gambler, feel free to take a look at this self-help workbook. It provides tips on how to avoid gambling urges as well as tips on how to avoid relapse. http://www.uclagamblingprogram.org/treatment/wb/US_WB.pdf
If you are a loved one of someone who may be a compulsive gambler, check out this booklet from the National Council on Problem Gambling. It provides tips on how to do deal with financial crisis due to gambling.