Fans of Law & Order: SVU will get a taste of gambling addiction this month when character Amanda Rollins, played by actress Kelli Giddish, comes head to head with her pathological betting problem. Since Giddish joined the cast in 2011, her character's gambling obsession has slowly spun into an undeniable, life-threatening problem. When TV characters deal with dangerous conflicts like this, the result is sometimes bad for the actor because the character could end up getting killed off the show. Instead of worrying about her future employment with Law & Order: SVU, however, Giddish told reporters she is grateful for the acting challenge. “It's such a great opportunity,” Giddish said of her chance to portray a character with an addiction flaw.
The 33-year-old actress began her career eight years ago on the soap All My Children. On that show, she served a two-year stint as Diana Henry. Giddish left the soap in 2007, but another actress assumed her character through 2008. That actress was Heather Kenzie. Following her tenure on All My Children, the actress dabbled in film and TV. A 2007 guest appearance on Law & Order: Criminal Intent eventually led to her hiring in 2011 for SVU's 13th season. On the show, she plays a detective who frequently partners with actor/musician Ice-T.
Some actors are notorious for the research they do in order the get the nuances of a character just right. Method actor Sean Penn had himself strapped into an electric chair in preparation for his role as Matthew Poncelet in Dead Man Walking. Christian Bale starved himself into anorexia for his role as Trevor Reznik in The Machinist. Rene Zellweger gained weight on two different occasions for her hit role as Bridget Jones in the Bridget Jones' Diary movies. Giddish takes a more laid back approach to her gambling addiction research. The actress said that often she would just “strike up a conversation” with random people. In restaurants and other public places she would conduct her research, listening as gambling addicts and others regaled their stories to her. Gambling addiction is not commonplace, but it definitely is a problem for a slim segment of the population. Data suggest that up to 5 percent of all people wrestle with an uncontrollable and damaging urge to gamble.
Everyone Could be Addicted to Something
Giddish believes that all people have the potential to become addicted to something, be it gambling or dieting or exercise. “You need to relax,” she said of the millions of people who deal with harmful dependencies every day. Giddish is correct in her assumption that people often rely on unhealthy vices: Andrew Spanswick of the Klean Treatment Center reports that 12-18 percent of Americans are addicted to one or more vices.
Tobacco, Drugs, and Alcohol
The National Institute of Drug Abuse estimates that tobacco addiction costs the U.S. $193 billion annually in medical bills and job productivity losses. Illicit drugs rack up an additional $193 billion, and alcoholism tacks on yet another $235 billion. These addictions come in the form of cigarette and pipe smoking, binge drinking, and drugs like prescription pain killers, marijuana, heroin, and amphetamines.
Believe it or not, the healthy act of exercising is an unhealthy addiction for some people. The endorphin rush that accompanies physical exertion soothes nerves and quells negative emotions in the same way illicit drugs and nicotine do. Spanswick says exercise addiction becomes detrimental when it is sought at the expense of other life pleasures and relationships.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia can sometimes be defined as addictions related to poor body image. Often, but not always, these disorders go hand-in-hand with exercise addiction. Anorexia nervosa, suffered by women more often than men, is characterized by a person's persistent belief that they are fat and their worry that they will get fatter. Anorexics eat very little and feel stress in situations that involve food, such as dining with family members or eating out at a restaurant. Bulimics might eat enough, but they use vomiting as a way to rid themselves of unwanted calories. The National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders estimate that .05-3.7 percent of women display the characteristics of anorexia nervosa in their lifetime.
Sex is a natural, healthy human desire, but it becomes unhealthy when others are harmed due to a person's obsession with it. According to Michael Herkov, Ph.D., up to 71 percent of child molesters are sex addicts and approximately 55 percent of sex offenders are sex addicts. Not all sex addicts become criminals, of course, but the disorder is defined as a progressive disorder that involves compulsive sexual thoughts and/or acts. While some addicts seek out the feelings of dominance and power that accompany sexual exploitation, others are more dependent on the chemical arousal they derive from sexual tension and release.
Often joked about, food addiction is actually a biological dependency on ingredients like the sugar, salt, and fat found in many processed foods. Biological dependency, characterized by stressful and/or uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms, could be the reason why 70 percent of Americans are overweight, according to a recent Huffington Post report. Obesity isn't the only problem derived from overeating. A person's risk for diabetes, heart disease, and cancer also increase when food consumption goes unchecked. Click here to know how to fight a weight loss problem with gambling.
The addictions people suffer make for interesting TV and novel fodder, in part because many people can identify with them to some extent. While some gambling addicts overcome their problems unscathed, many endure great losses before they ultimately seek treatment. Others never receive treatment. The fate of Giddish's gambling-obsessed SVU character could go in many different directions. One thing is for certain: The actress' future on the show depends on how her character ultimately deals with her gambling addiction.