Our nation held its collective breath for the last several months as we learned to reshape our lives under the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19. Now, we’re happily tilting back in barber’s chairs, unwinding in restaurant patio seats and, soon, reclining in movie theaters’ loungers.
It feels great to step out.
Or does it? The mixed messages we’re receiving dizzy us. We worry over photos of bar patrons literally shoulder-to-shoulder without protective equipment. We shake our heads over calls to return to workspaces but only if we close our office doors and wear masks when walking to the restroom.
Now gym managers reassure us that weight machines really will stay virus-free and amusement park operators promise drastically reduced crowds. Can we trust? Should we try?
Even more uncertain for those who struggle with gambling addiction are the re-openings of places and events that often pull us back into addiction. Casino slot machines and poker tables light up again June 19. Professional sports like Major League Baseball may take the field as early as July.
In other words, the opportunities for relapse will multiply this summer. Are you prepared?
WE ASK BECAUSE YOU’VE GONE DARK. Even with all the stresses of job loss, the toppling of Wall Street, isolation and increased responsibilities for child care, calls for help with gambling issues have fallen off throughout the country. We’ve been scratching our heads a bit to understand why.
Online gambling sites are certainly available and flourishing. According to a recent report from ResearchAndMarkets, Inc., the revenues for these vendors will increase from $58.9 billion last year to $66.7 billion this year. Virtual reality has opened a whole new dimension for those who want to “feel” the casino experience from home.
So, the most likely way to interpret the declines in requests for education and treatment is that people are delaying getting help. Sadly, this possibility carries serious long-term implications.
Brian Fuehrlein, MD, Ph.D., associate professor of psychiatry and director of the Psychiatric Emergency Room for the VA Connecticut Health Care System says, “… in the long run we will see a sharp increase in depression, anxiety, and addictions of all types as a direct consequence of the current pandemic. This may be due to the death of a loved one, a financial crisis, the loss of a job or housing, or some related tragedy. At the moment those consequences have yet to play out.”
Children’s mental health also has been severely tested with school closings, lack of social and sports activities and more. Experts like Mark Potenza, Ph.D., MD and the psychiatry professor who directs Yale’s Center of Excellence in Gambling Research and other programs, anticipates more children falling prey to Internet gaming disorder.
Maybe you’ve delayed reaching out because you worried about going into seemingly high-risk facilities to meet counselors. Or maybe you thought you could handle things on your own since you could no longer bet on sports or go to a racino.