Recognizing the Signs of Problematic Gambling

You’ve filled up on a buffet in a twinkly, noisy casino and you’re ready to roll the dice. The rush of a winning bet or hand of cards is hard to beat, but gambling can also lead to debt and loss of income and family members.

Many people gamble to relieve unpleasant emotions or boredom, but there are healthier and more effective ways of doing this. Some examples include exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. It’s important to recognize the signs of problematic gambling and seek help if needed.

Whether it’s betting on a football team to win or buying a scratchcard, the first part of gambling involves choosing what you want to bet on. This choice is matched to the ‘odds’, which are determined by the betting company and indicate how much money you could get if you win.

While most people who engage in gambling do so for fun, it can be a problem when the desire to win becomes more important than other activities or financial responsibilities. Research shows that monetary wins trigger a response in a part of the brain called the striatum, which is also activated by natural reinforcers such as food and sexual stimuli or drugs of abuse like cocaine.

When a person starts thinking they’re ‘due for a big win’ or that they can ‘just play a little longer’, it’s known as the gambler’s fallacy. The fallacy is a symptom of problematic gambling, so if you start thinking this way, seek help immediately.