Gambling is when you risk something of value in a game of chance with the potential to win a prize. It can be placing a bet on a football match, buying a Lotto ticket or even tossing a coin in the air – but whatever it is, it involves assessing probabilities and taking a risk.
It is important to be aware of how gambling affects our brains because when we gamble, our brains release chemicals that make us feel good. This is because gambling is a reward activity and humans are biologically wired to seek rewards. These can come from healthy behaviors such as eating a nutritious diet, spending time with loved ones and exercising, but they can also come from unhealthy behaviors such as gambling and substance abuse.
People can suffer from gambling disorders that range from mild to severe. Some people can overcome their gambling problems, but others may need treatment. People with gambling disorders often have coexisting mental health conditions, such as depression or anxiety. They also tend to have a family history of gambling. Gambling disorders can be treated through psychotherapy, which includes cognitive behavioral therapy, psychodynamic therapy and family therapy. There are no FDA-approved medications for gambling disorder, but psychotherapy can help to change negative thoughts and behaviors.
If you’re concerned about your own gambling behavior or the gambling behaviors of a loved one, it’s important to reach out for support. Talk with a trusted friend or family member, and consider attending a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.