What happens to the brain when someone is addicted to gambling? Gambling addiction is similar to drug or alcohol addiction in that they will have some of the same symptoms. The brain is affected in the same way and sends signals through chemicals, mostly dopamine, that gives the person a feeling of euphoria. These feelings of enjoyment are great and your brain wants you to keep repeating the actions so that you can experience the rush of chemicals again and again.
How do you tell if a person is a gambling addict?
Gambling is an addiction that will take control of your life. The urge to gamble will be so strong that the negative consequences will not make you quit. If your grades at school used to be straight A’s and now they are not or you keep putting better opportunities on hold it could be because you are compelled to gamble. You could be showing signs of a gambling addiction.
The brain and gambling
Recognition and reward are feelings we enjoy and gambling can be a rewarding activity. You feel great and want to keep feeling that good. However to get the same feelings of reward you will need to gamble over and over again and this is where an addiction can start. Dopamine, serotonin and endorphins are the chemicals released by the brain when we do something that makes us feel good. When your gambling wager pay off you get a huge rush of adrenalin and this will make you want to do more to get that great hit.
Tolerance is increased
The chemicals can get to the point where they have less of an impact as your brain has become more tolerant to the activity. To get the same rush as before you will have to up your game and make it more thrilling. The more the brain is stimulated the more of a tolerance is built up. The more you do that activity the less your brain’s reward system will take notice and so the never ending cycle of gambling more with higher stakes continues.
Control of the impulse to gamble
The prefrontal cortex is where the brain controls impulses. This part of the brain will look at the risks and rewards in order for us to make a decision. When gambling the prefrontal cortex cannot do this task properly. The decisions made are likely to be decided on the short-term reward, rather than on a long term reward. Their impulse will not be able to be controlled as the gambler will believe that the next bet will be the big win.
Quitting gambling may result in withdrawal symptoms which can be rather uncomfortable. Interrupted or loss of sleep, shaking and sweating are all possible. The withdrawal symptoms are similar to those of drug addicts and alcoholics.
How to stop
It can be almost impossible to stop gambling by yourself as you will need therapy and support. Some therapy will include medications to help reduce the urge to gamble and cognitive therapy to help overcome the urge by using techniques to change your lifestyle.