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[Fin Talk] Squid Game: Understanding 456’s Behavior

By Arlyn Tan

Apart from the financial woes of player #456 Seong Gi-Hun, it is his gambling addiction that led to his participation in the Squid Game. He had to rely on betting again and again to repay his creditor. Unfortunately, he realized that he can’t win all the time. Squid Game offered him this one chance to cover his losses.

What is going on inside the brain of Gi-Hun? Why did he not look for a decent job after being retrenched? Is the situation beyond his control ?

Gambling evokes social gratification, collective engagement, and the excitement of taking a chance. Gambling was created initially as a recreational activity but for some like GiHun, it had progressed to problem gambling and addiction.

According to Merriam Webster, addiction is a strong & harmful need to regularly have something (drug) or do something (gamble and games.) On a lighter note, it is having an unusual great interest in something (shopping, competition.)

Scientists had classified problem gambling as a behavioral addiction and psychiatric disorder in 1980. In 2013, it was renamed as “gambling disorder,” which is placed side by side with alcohol and drug addictions. Pathological gambling is linked to the changes in the human brain where the reward system becomes hypersensitive. The brain releases dopamine, the feel-good neurotransmitter during gambling. Losing and winning money triggers the same degree of dopamine. As a result, losing causes one to keep playing rather than walking away.

This is known as the chasing losses phenomenon.

Gi-Hun’s gambling activity and addiction caused his financial and relationship problems. Many gamblers share the fate of Gi-Hun where personal debt mounts, spouses file for annulment, and bankruptcies are filed. The worst that could happen is that the family funds are depleted to the point that education and retirement are sacrificed.

Preventing and detecting gambling addiction are the first steps in avoiding the dire financial consequences. The change of behaviors from being a reliable person to a gambler can stem from loneliness, depression, anxiety and traumatic circumstances.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5) has identified gambling addiction as a behavioral disorder for now. It states that a person must show or experience at least four of the following during the past 12 months to be diagnosed with the gambling addiction:

Need to gamble with increasing amounts of money to feel excitement

Restlessness or irritability when trying to stop gambling

Repeated unsuccessful attempts to stop, control, or reduce gambling

Thinking often about gambling and making plans to gamble

Gambling when feeling distressed

Returning to gamble again after losing money

Lying to conceal gambling activities

Experiencing relationship or work problems due to gambling

Depending on others for money to spend on gambling

When you see #456 Seong Gi-Hun in your loved one, it is time to seek a mental health professional. Mild symptoms can be treated by joining self-help groups and online treatments. Setting boundaries regarding family finances is also important to avoid debts and the disruptions of excessive gambling. Being mindful that gambling can forever change one's life can push us to gamble responsibly. Playing once in a while and with a few hundreds of pesos is fine. But any excessive activity will be poisonous to your mind, and relationships.

Do you think #456 Seong Gi-Hun had completely overcome his addiction after the hell that he went through in Squid Game? Only creator-writer-director, Hwang Dong-hyuk, can tell.

Arlyn Tan is a Strategic Wealth Consultant. She helps individuals and organizations on how to maximize the value of their money through risk, health & wealth management. Her mission lies in making sure that clients achieve 3 things. First, they reach their milestones on time with sufficient resources. Second, they protect them from the impact of economic losses secondary to unexpected events. The third and most important is that they enjoy meaningful and balanced lives.

LinkedIn/Twitter: Arlyn Tan

FB/IG: @pinnaclefinlitcoachph

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