Gambling is the act of risking something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance. It can include anything from playing a slot machine to buying lottery tickets and betting on sports events.

How does gambling affect the brain?

The act of gambling triggers the release of dopamine in the brain, which makes you feel excited. It also causes your heart rate to increase and blood pressure to rise, both of which can make you more likely to lose money.

Problematic Gambling: How to Know if You or a Loved One Has a Problem

If you notice a pattern of gambling behavior that negatively impacts other areas of your life, like your health, finances, family or studies, or that contributes to legal issues, you may have a problem with gambling. Symptoms can include frequent thoughts of gambling, preoccupation with gambling, lying to hide the extent of the problem, or relying on others to pay for gambling losses.

Unlike alcohol and drugs, gambling can be a hidden addiction. It’s more difficult to detect, but it is possible to get help and stop gambling.

How to Cope with a Problematic Gambler:

A loved one’s gambling problems can be hard to handle, especially when they are taking away money that you need for other expenses. Set limits on how much you will allow them to gamble and manage your own finances. If you are concerned about their behavior, seek support through a self-help group or by calling a helpline.