Gambling addiction is a serious mental health issue similar to drug or alcohol addiction. Gambling has become a problem when it begins to negatively affect your relationships, work, finances, health, or overall life.
The effect of gambling on the brain can make it easy for an addiction to quickly develop.
In this article, you’ll learn the exact ways gambling affects the brain and what you can do to receive treatment for your addiction.
How Gambling Affects the Brain
Gambling affects the brain in the same way some drugs do. When you gamble, your brain releases dopamine, a chemical that produces pleasant emotions and joy. Because this feels good, you might continue to gamble, and then continue to produce higher dopamine levels.
But over time the more you gamble, the less of an effect those same dopamine levels will have on you. Your brain’s reward system begins to develop a tolerance and therefore, you end up gambling even more in order to feel the same good emotions as when you first started gambling.
This is what can cause some people to develop a gambling addiction which leads to compulsive gambling.
Symptoms of Gambling Addiction
When the brain becomes addicted to gambling, you might experience some or all of the following pathological gambling behaviors:
- Feeling unable to quit gambling
- Trying to limit yourself to only gamble for a specific amount of time
- Experiencing irritability and other withdrawal symptoms when you don’t gamble (even if only for a few days or even hours)
- Having financial difficulties due to gambling
- Becoming obsessed with gambling
- Skipping important responsibilities in order to gamble
- And many others
Gambling addicts (also known as compulsive gamblers or problem gamblers) experience much of the same behaviors as someone with a drug addiction. As mentioned, it can have a very similar effect on the brain as other drugs and it can be extremely difficult (if not impossible) to stop gambling for good without professional help.
The Effects of Casinos on the Brain
A significant amount of gambling occurs at casinos - and casinos are designed to draw people in and keep them there for extended periods of time. From the layout to the game designs and bright lights and sounds, spending any amount of time at a casino can affect the brain.
The layout of most casinos across the country is open and large. There’s often a bar located in the lobby as well. It makes the environment feel relaxed, which causes people to want to stay. For example, there are typically multiple areas to lounge and sit and take a break from gambling. So rather than leaving when you become tired, you’re more likely to rest at one of the tables or grab a drink at the bar (which can also lead to alcohol addictions).
Casinos often have hundreds of games or more depending on the establishment’s size. And each of these casino games is specifically designed to make you feel like you are close to winning a large amount of money. This design is intentional because if you feel as if you are so close to winning big, you’re unlikely to quit the game. The games are also designed to make it easier than ever to play “just one more time.” If you’re at slot machines, for example, you only need to press one button in order to continue playing your game.
Bright Lights and Sounds
Lastly, there are bright lights and a wide variety of sounds at casinos. And these lights and sounds aren’t there by coincidence - it’s another way to keep you engaged in the games and keep you in the casino. Not to mention, lights keep you awake and stimulated. So even if you have been gambling for hours, you might find yourself feeling extremely focus on the game you’re playing.
There Are No Clocks
Have you ever noticed in a casino it can be difficult to find a clock? This means you can’t really know what time it is unless you specifically check your cell phone. The result is that time seems to slip away, making it easier than ever to spend hours, or even days, inside a casino.
Gambling Disorder Beyond Casinos
It’s very important to note that you do not need to visit casinos or even use electronic gambling machines in order to have a gambling addiction. Many people who have unhealthy gambling habits use online gambling. And online gambling games use the exact same tactics and strategies to keep you playing as casino games.
Regardless of where and how you gamble, this type of addiction is serious and needs the help of professionals who are experienced in working with individuals who gamble.
The Effects of Casinos on the Brain
Enlight Treatment Center provides in-house gambling addiction treatment in Ventura, California, allowing clients to fully concentrate on solving their addiction issues and regain hope and optimism about their future. In addition to dual diagnosis treatment, we also offer detox and inpatient rehab programs.
If you or a loved one has a compulsive gambling problem or is struggling with their gambling behavior or drug abuse (including alcohol addiction) were are here to help.
- Reviewed by Lilit Asulyan, Psy. D