Gambling is risking something of value (money, goods, or even your own life) on an event that is determined at least in part by chance and hoping to win. Whether you are buying a lottery ticket, betting on a football match, or playing the pokies in a casino, gambling is addictive and can cause harm if not controlled.

The release of dopamine from gambling is similar to the feeling one gets when taking drugs and repeated exposure can lead to lasting changes in brain reward pathways. These changes are linked to the high comorbidity of pathological gambling with other psychiatric disorders and can be reversed by treatment (Petry, Bowden-Jones, & Hall, 2013).

When you gamble, your chances of winning are very low. The odds on a football match, for example, are 1 in 107, so you will win very rarely and lose much more often than that. In addition, gambling is often accompanied by flashing lights and loud music which stimulate the brain and distract you from thinking clearly. This is why it is important to set limits on how much money you can spend and stop when you hit them.

If you are a compulsive gambler, you may hide your gambling and lie to others about how much time or money you have lost. This is especially common in workplaces, where 28% of people who gamble say they would prefer to keep their gambling activity secret from co-workers.

If you are concerned about gambling problems, talk to your GP or call the Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. They can help you with your problem and refer you for specialist help if necessary. It is also important to get help for underlying mood disorders like depression or stress, as they can both trigger gambling problems and be made worse by them.