How Gambling Affects the Brain

Gambling is an activity in which people stake something of value (usually money) on the outcome of a random event, whose success or failure is determined at least partly by chance. It can take many forms, from placing a bet on a team in a football match to purchasing a scratchcard. The decision to gamble is often based on the ‘odds’ set by betting companies, which indicate how much the person could win if they are lucky enough.

While gambling can be a fun and entertaining pastime for some, it can also lead to serious financial problems for others. Scientists are investigating how gambling affects the brain and what factors may provoke problematic gambling behaviours.

Vulnerable groups include those with low incomes, who have more to lose with a big win, and young people (especially boys and men). Research is needed to understand why this happens, and how it can be prevented.

If you or a family member has a problem with gambling, it’s important to seek help. Often, mental health issues such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse can trigger gambling and make it harder to quit. There are many ways to get support for yourself or a loved one, including counselling and inpatient/residential programmes. You can also try self-help techniques such as setting limits on how much time you’ll spend gambling, and never chasing losses. Learn to manage your moods and relieve boredom in healthier ways, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques.

Posted in: Gambling