The Dangers of Gambling
Gambling involves risking something of value (typically money) on an event whose outcome is determined by chance with the potential to win a larger prize. Examples include lottery tickets, cards, bingo, games of chance, races, animal tracks, sports events, and pokies (slot machines). Some people may gamble professionally or make it a large portion of their income. People can also gamble socially, such as by participating in a poker game, sports pool, or buying lotto tickets with friends.
Despite its widespread popularity, gambling is not without risks. Pathological gambling, characterized by a comorbid substance abuse disorder, occurs in about 4% of the general population and is considered an addiction. This type of gambling is characterized by a lack of control over gambling behavior, preoccupation with gambling, and negative consequences such as lying to family members or therapists about how much one is gambling, hiding gambling activity, and relying on others to fund or replace lost money.
Studies of gambling and the brain have shown that it affects the reward center. When you win, your body releases a dopamine chemical, which makes you feel good and reinforces the desire to gamble. However, if you continue to gamble, your brain becomes desensitized to the dopamine and requires more gambling to produce the same effect. For this reason, it is important to only gamble with money that you can afford to lose and not to use it to pay off debts or expenses. In addition, try to limit the amount of time you spend gambling and avoid chasing losses—the more you attempt to win back what you’ve lost, the greater your loss will be.