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How Gambling Affects the Brain

Gambling is a fun activity for most people, but it can be a dangerous addiction for some. It is important to know how gambling affects the brain and what factors might trigger problematic behaviour.

A person’s mood and genetic predispositions can make them more susceptible to developing a gambling problem. Underlying mood disorders like depression, stress, and anxiety can also contribute to compulsive gambling. The good news is that these issues can be treated, and once a person is free from gambling, their underlying issues can often improve as well.

For some people, gambling can be a way to relieve boredom or loneliness. Others use it to self-soothe unpleasant feelings, such as anxiety or depression, or to unwind after a stressful day at work or argument with their partner. While these reasons do not absolve the gambler of responsibility, they can help you understand why your loved one keeps gambling. You might then be able to find healthier and more effective ways of relieving these emotions, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

In many cases, the reason for a person’s gambling is financial. They might want to win money for a particular purpose, such as buying a new car or paying off debts. Some people even gamble as a form of entertainment, to get that rush and ‘high’ they experience when winning.

However, it is important to recognise that gambling is a game of chance and there is no guaranteed way of winning. It is possible for a person to lose more than they win, so it is crucial to set a budget and stick to it. It is also a good idea to take regular breaks from the game, as it can be easy to lose focus.

Pathological gambling is a serious mental health condition that has become a recognised disorder since its inclusion in the 2013 edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). It has been placed in the new section on substance-related and addictive disorders because of research showing that it shares behavioural, neurobiological, and genetic features with substance-related disorders.

If you have a problem with gambling, counselling may be helpful. A counsellor can help you examine your motivations, think about the effects of gambling on your life and relationships, and consider options for change. You might also need professional treatment or rehab programs, which are aimed at those with severe problems and can involve inpatient stays. They are usually run by trained clinicians and include individual, family, group, or couples therapy, as well as support groups for families of gamblers. Some programs may also offer education on gambling, such as workshops and presentations. Many of these services are available online. Alternatively, you can seek private or charitable counselling. If you have children, it is important to talk to them about gambling and explain the risks and consequences of a harmful behaviour. They should also be encouraged to participate in other activities, such as sports or art classes.