The Science Of Gambling

The Science Of Gambling


For some people the risk and excitement
of gambling is a bit of fun and maybe
even a chance to win some money. But like
alcohol, drugs, eating, shopping, or gaming
gambling can develop into a harmful
habit. Someone with a gambling addiction
will keep on gambling despite any
negative effects it’s having and even if
they realize it’s bad for them. But why
is this? Gambling is a risk and reward
experience. In our brains there are
certain happiness chemicals like
dopamine and endorphins that get
released to let us know when a risk pays
off. So when you win these chemicals make
you feel good. For example, if you place a
bet on a horse and predict that it’s
going to win and then that horse ends up
winning, the brain will release some of
those chemicals giving you that rush of
satisfaction and ultimately making you
feel like gambling some more. The more
this reward system is activated, the more
tolerance is built up and the less of an
impact the chemicals will have. So for
someone to get the same rush and
excitement they got from the first bet
they’ll need to take bigger and bigger
risks every time they gamble. The brain
then becomes conditioned into wanting
more and more to trigger its reward
system to the point where the mental
wiring changes. Getting this back to
normal means undoing weeks, months
potentially even years of negative
impact. When someone has developed a
gambling problem the area of the brain
called the prefrontal cortex which
controls impulses and weighs up risk and
reward in the short and long term also
doesn’t work as it needs to and it’s
more likely to make a decision on an
immediate reward rather than any
long-term impact. Ultimately this means
not being able to control any impulse to
bet. When a person reaches this stage it
has become an addiction and it’s likely
causing more than just financial
problems. Their relationships, mental and
physical health, and social life can all
be affected and withdrawal symptoms can
become more and more intense the longer
the addiction continues. Gambling can be
difficult to give up but recovery is possible
no matter how difficult the situation may
appear. If you or someone you care about
has a gambling problem you can find a
list of support services at spunout.ie/gamblinghelp

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