Although most people gamble for entertainment or recreation, it is also an activity that can have negative consequences, such as spending money that was actually intended for something else. This short article explores how gambling can affect the brain and why it can lead to problematic gambling behavior in some cases.
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The act of gambling acts on the brain's reward system, which is also responsible for processing natural rewards such as food and sex. This reward system is important for learning and motivating behavior and occurs in both animals and humans, although the human reward system is a lot more complex.
Gambling can cause a tremendous "high. This feeling is created not only by the rewards themselves but also by the anticipation of a possible reward. The latter is what mainly causes people to return to the casino table to try their luck.
The constant exposure to gambling "takes over" the reward system, so to speak, in some people, creating a desire for gambling that is so strong that it is almost impossible to resist. This strong urge can be triggered by gambling cues such as gambling ads or gambling-like sounds.
Researchers of problem gambling behavior talk about an imbalance between two brain pathways responsible for the feeling of "liking something" and "wanting something.
For problem gamblers, the urge to gamble can become so strong that it dominates almost all decision-making. Eventually, it is no longer about 'liking' gambling, and the urge to want to gamble takes over. This phenomenon is called tolerance, where a gambler has to gamble more to experience the same level of satisfaction as before, which can lead to gambling behavior getting out of control.
As a gambler, it's best to be proactive. Set a limit for yourself, regarding how much money and time you can spend, and think about why you gamble. Suppose gambling involves negative consequences or emotions, takes over important aspects of your life, or becomes a way to escape unpleasant emotions. In that case, you need to react immediately to prevent problems from escalating. It is always a good idea to talk to a professional when in doubt.
Fortunately, the brain is adaptive, and the reward system can be "rewired" again, but this requires perseverance and often help from clinicians. Problem gamblers fight against strong brain systems. Trying to overcome this yourself with willpower alone is usually a lost cause, but it is possible to overcome even the most hopeless situation with the right tools, you can check The best gadgets for the traveler.
Do you know someone who has a gambling problem or doesn't have enough control over themselves? Visit our page on responsible gambling for information, tips, and contact details for help agencies.