How Gambling Affects the Brain


Whether it’s buying a lottery ticket, betting on sports events or playing pokies, gambling is a popular activity that can provide a rush of adrenaline when you win, but can also leave you in financial difficulty if you lose. Learn more about gambling, how it affects the brain and factors that may provoke problematic gambling.

Gambling is defined as the wagering of something of value (money, property or other) on a random event with the intent to win something else of value. Examples of gambling include lottery tickets, betting on a horse race or football game, playing marbles games, Magic: The Gathering and other collectible trading card games and the use of game pieces to create a meta-game regarding their value.

When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, the neurotransmitter that makes you feel excited. Because of this, you’re likely to keep gambling even when you are losing, which can lead to a vicious cycle of addiction. To overcome a problem with gambling, you need to break this pattern and learn healthy coping mechanisms.

Many people who gamble do so for fun or to socialise, but it can be dangerous if you’re unable to control your spending. If you’re unable to stop gambling and find that it’s affecting your work or home life, seek help. There are a number of treatments available, including inpatient or residential rehab programmes. It’s also important to address any underlying mental health issues, as they can trigger or make worse a gambling addiction.

Often, people who have problems with gambling do not realise it until they’re in financial trouble. This is because gambling is often done out of habit, and the urge to gamble can be triggered by emotions like anger or fear. To help prevent this, you can try to break the habit by setting money and time limits and by never chasing your losses.

It’s important to remember that gambling is not a way to make money and should only be used for entertainment. If you’re concerned that you or someone you know is struggling with gambling, there are a variety of treatments available, from self-help advice to inpatient rehabilitation. To learn more about how to get help, visit our gambling help guide.