How would you handle an overnight change in lifestyle that leaves you with a lot of free time on your hands? From the metropolitan women of New York City’s towering apartment buildings who frequent the hotel casinos in Atlantic City to the suburban women in New Mexico’s adobe houses who frequent the Native American casinos, more and more retired women are filling their time—and emptying their bank accounts—by gambling.
An April 28th article by Tanya Mohn in the New York Times, titled Fighting Compulsive Gambling Among Women, reported that gambling addiction among retired women and women nearing retirement seems to be growing in severity and scope. The problems that accompany this addiction are often devastating, including a disastrous impact on personal finances.
Women are less likely to develop gambling problems than men, according to Keith Whyte, the executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, but “telescoping, the rapid development of problems, is especially pronounced in senior women.” It may seem surprising to some people that women have severe gambling problems, he said. “Grandma is not seen as someone who embezzles money and is taken off to jail.” But it happens often enough after women lose large sums of money and find they are in financial straits—they steal money from family members, friends and clients in order to continue gambling and pay bills. “Once they tap into retirement savings, it’s incredibly hard—if they are ever able—to rebuild those savings,” Mr. Whyte said.
Gambling addiction as a disease
The clinical director of Healy Counseling Associates in New Jersey, which specializes in addiction counseling, called gambling addiction in the elderly “a hot issue and undernoticed in this country.”
It wasn’t until 1980 that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders listed pathological gambling as a mental health issue, and only relatively recently has gambling addition begun to command more serious attention scientifically and medically. There is also enough anecdotal evidence to support the theory that some medications taken by older women can lead to compulsive behavior, including gambling addiction. And reduced cognitive function, another problem in advanced age, may cause confusion or unsound thinking, leading to behaviors that are harmful.
An additional dimension to this problem is that there is a clear connection between gambling and substance abuse. A “problem gambler” is four times more likely to be or become an alcoholic. The rate of gambling addiction among substance abusers is at least four times the rate found generally in society.
Already several books by women, based on their own experiences, have been published on the topic of female gambling addicts. Sandra Adell, a 70-year old literature professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, relayed her experiences as a compulsive gambler in her book Confessions of a Slot Machine Queen.
Prevention and intervention through the Transcendental Meditation program
An editor of the Kolmac Outpatient Recovery Center’s website wrote: Meditation has been used for centuries to help reduce stress and promote psychological growth. Of the many types that exist, Transcendental Meditation is one that has the most scientific studies supporting its effectiveness in the treatment of substance use disorders.
Dr. Stuart Rothenberg, a family physician, author, lecturer, and certified teacher of the Transcendental Meditation technique wrote, “I have observed the devastating influence addiction can have in the lives of my patients—as well as the profound effect that TM practice can have in helping them achieve healthy, fulfilling lives… and meta-analyses have found that TM practice is significantly more effective than other meditation or relaxation approaches and other conventional programs used to treat addictions.
The TM practice provides relief both psychologically and physiologically from many causes of addiction. First and foundationally, addressing a woman’s spiritual and emotional needs, TM connects us with the Self within—the deepest level of experience, a profound reservoir of serenity and bliss. Over time, this repeated experience provides a baseline of inner peace, expansion, and fulfillment that undermines and upends the craving to gamble. Scientific research on the TM practice shows a physical increase in the production of neurochemicals associated with happiness and fulfillment—including serotonin, dopamine, and gabaminobutyric acid. Increase in these neurotransmitters also reduces anxiety and autonomic arousal—decreasing a woman’s need for stimulation and therefore the compulsive need to gamble.
Other published research has documented an important state of brain integration during the practice of TM. Brain-wave patterns of those practicing the TM technique display high levels of orderliness, suggesting greater communication among different parts of the brain; the coherence found during TM practice is particularly strong in the very front of the brain—the “prefrontal cortex” or “CEO” of the brain.” Brain-imaging studies also show increased blood flow in the prefrontal cortex, which is highly significant because it is the seat of crucial higher-level executive functions, including healthy decision-making ability, impulse control (willpower), moral judgment, and organizational skills. Cognition and emotional balance improve. A woman struggling with addiction diminishes her unhealthy emotions, tendencies and cravings by learning Transcendental Meditation.
Maybe you have a family member—an aunt, a grandparent, a parent—who seems to be spending a little too much time at the tables. Or maybe this article applies to your situation personally. The gift of a TM course will help to address a growing or established gambling addiction and restore a healthy, happy, fulfilling lifestyle.
Janet Hoffman is the executive director of the TM program for women professionals in the USA.