Lately, I have received numerous calls from reporters to patients about the addiction to fantasy sports sites – especially to the latest in daily fantasy sports sites. Wow, instead of waiting an entire season, they can now achieve immediate gratification in winning each day, much like an addiction to gambling and betting.
When considering the definition of addiction, thoughts that commonly run through someone’s mind are referring to drugs and alcohol, and not necessarily fantasy sports. But with the addiction to fantasy sports rapidly on the rise, it has managed to make its mark as an unofficial and unexpected addiction to some.
Whether it’s playing fantasy sports just to win some money, or for the feeling of authority of pure entertainment, there’s no question fantasy sports sites have become addicting.
Whether it’s the fall season and football season is about to take off, or it is March and spring training for football is in session, the addiction never stops. It is a year-round leisure pursuit that has captivated the lives of sports fans and now is daily phenomenon. A typical fantasy football draft can take anywhere from one to five hours to complete. Individuals that are participating in the game, break down player stats, injury reports and opposing predictions when creating rosters.
It is an addiction that can damage life’s most significant relationships. Even in parts of the country where football madness is normal, over-indulging in sports viewing can negatively impact a person’s quality of life. It is not only about the number of hours you spend in front of the computer or device, but how that involvement might be taking you away from everyday real-life commitment.
I’ve worked with more people who found this fun activity taking over their lives. I have worked with men whose wives banned them from playing, people who talked about the time commitment and how that interfered with their everyday life, either at work or home.
Patients are mainly men who are in their offices or dens indulging in this new form of gambling. The inability to properly monitor fantasy play makes it difficult to determine whether or not fantasy sports leads to more serious forms of gambling, like wagering illegally on games.
Fantasy sports is sort of a sub-culture within the culture of gambling, where people have wagered on games using both bookies and offshore websites, and I have worked with some people who have lost everything because they chase and chase games.
Despite these financial consequences, among addicts, they claim that picking a virtual team and wagering money on its performance is different than picking a real team and wagering money on its performance, all part of the denial. Some common warning signs are:
• Do you have fantasy sports on your mind even when you are involved in other activities?
• Do you prioritize the game over significant events in your life such as birthdays, anniversaries and key social gatherings?
• Do you feel depressed, angry or become violent if your favorite team loses?
• Do you feel preoccupied with your next gaming session?
• Do you feel it hard to control, cut back, or stop your gaming use?
• Do you feel restless, moody, depressed, or irritable when you try to cut back how much time you spent on fantasy sport sites?
• Have you hurt a relationship, job, or school situation because of fantasy sports?
• Have you lied about how much you play fantasy sports?
As with other addictions, withdrawal symptoms often occur. Among the most common are:
• A feeling of emptiness
• A disruption in sleep pattern
• Excessive amounts of time spent sleeping
• “Brain fog:” Difficulty with focus, concentration and completing complex tasks
• Fantasies and dreams about the game
• Restless, unfulfilling, taunting dreams
• The urge to go back to gaming and try to control the time played
• Thinking about the game for extended periods of time
• Excessive crying, anxiety, fear, sadness, and loneliness
• Lack of motivation/direction
• Difficulty facing obligations, procrastination
• Feeling as though a return to gaming will make you feel better
Interestingly, Congress outlawed online gambling in 2006. Fantasy sports were exempted, largely because they were seen as season-long hobbies based on camaraderie as much as cash. However, technology quickly evolved, and now anyone with a smart phone can pick a team in hopes of a huge daily payoff. As the nature of the game has changed, itt seems time for Congress to re-evaluate the law and consider how these fantasy sports sites can become more like gambling.