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Gambling Addiction: Forget-itis or a Touch of Insanity?

The Insanity of Gambling Addiction

Gambling Addiction – Insanity or “Forget-itis”?

Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity “doing the same thing over and over expecting a different result” is often espoused by those recovering from a Gambling Addiction.  For some of us, we’ve coined the phrase “forget-itis” as much the same thing and very similar to what Bill Murray experienced in his movie “Groundhog Day” (1993) doomed to repeat his day over and over with the same results.  Having spent almost twelve years in a 12-step group for gambling addiction, if I had a nickel for every time I have heard someone share their experience of doing the same thing over and over again, well, I would be rich!!

I did search the Internet for a definition or explanation for the term ‘forgetitis’ and although I was unsuccessful in that quest, I did find in Wikipedia the following:

Motivated forgetting is a debated concept referring to a psychological defence mechanism in which people forget unwanted memories, either consciously or unconsciously.[1] There are times when memories are reminders of unpleasant experiences that make people angry, sad, anxious, ashamed or afraid. Motivated forgetting is a method in which people protect themselves by blocking the recall of these anxiety-arousing memories.[2] For example, if something reminds a person of an unpleasant event, his or her mind may steer towards unrelated topics. This could induce forgetting without being generated by an intention to forget, making it a motivated action. There are two main classes of motivated forgetting: repression is an unconscious act, while suppression a conscious form of excluding thoughts and memories from awareness.

So, does this make me feel any better that there is, in fact a syndrome that explained why my gambling addiction would drive me to the casino daily; only to  leave there each day sick to my stomach, banging my hands on the steering wheel and avowing to NEVER do that again…until the next day.   I guess it does make me feel relieved that I am not insane, but was merely “motivated to forget the pain” and anguish of once again chasing my losses and looking to score the big win.

I know that when I was in that state of ‘motivated forgetting’ I was unable to remember what used to make me happy before I started gambling compulsively.  I know that when I’m in that state that nothing else or no one else matters; not even MONEY!   I can stay away for days, weeks, even years but once I’m back in action, I cannot remember the person I used to be…someone that doesn’t lie, cheat, or steal from their loved ones.  I do not remember the sleepless nights when I’m tossing and turning, even on the rare nights that I leave the casinos with money.  I do not remember the anger outbursts, the missed meals, the lost time with loved ones that I can never get back when I am in action.  I do not remember the lies that I tell to cover my whereabouts or missing money or unpaid bills.  I do not remember the emptiness and the black hole that I continue to try to fill with gambling and ‘numbing out’ in front of a machine.  I do not remember the repeated trips to an ATM (with the multiple service fees tacked on) nor do I remember the several round-trips back home to get more money.  And, now I know and remember, all of the pain, the anguish, the emptiness, the insanity of what I was doing while in action- the memories that today keep me in recovery and mindful of the damage that I did to myself and my loved ones.


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A Compelling and Passionate Speaker
Bea Aikens couples her personal experience with extensive knowledge of the disease of compulsive gambling to build a compelling platform for civic, community and national organizations seeking knowledge and understanding of the disease of disordered gambling. To engage Bea for your upcoming event, contact her at
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