CU Boulder Student Health and Wellness Center (SHAWC) – Understanding Gambling


For some individuals, gambling is a fun way to socialize with friends or be entertained. For others, it is a way to escape from problems or to relieve boredom, sadness, anger, grief or stress. For some, gambling is an opportunity to win money or other prizes. However, for many people who struggle with problem gambling, it is not a pleasant or safe activity. Gambling can be harmful to physical and mental health. It can affect relationships and cause financial difficulties. It can also interfere with work, school or personal life. The CU Boulder Student Health and Wellness Center (SHAWC) is here to help.

Whether it is betting on sports events, lottery games, casino games, video poker, or slot machines, gambling is a form of risk-taking that involves placing something of value on the outcome of a random event. The odds are often against the gambler and a person is likely to lose more than they win. However, many individuals are not aware that gambling is a high-risk, low-reward entertainment choice and seek out the excitement of winning.

Individuals with gambling disorders may be able to recognize their problem, but are unable to stop their behavior. Their problems may range from minor to severe, and they may not meet all the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. In addition, people with gambling disorders may be in recovery from their disorder (i.e., they met the DSM-IV criteria for pathological gambling at one point in their lives but do not currently meet those criteria).

The term “gambling” encompasses a wide range of activities, including playing card games, lottery and scratch-off tickets, horse racing, sports events, and other forms of commercial and recreational gambling. Some people with gambling disorders also engage in self-destructive behaviors, such as drug abuse and eating disorders.

Researchers have found that some individuals are more prone to developing gambling problems than others. For example, certain genes appear to influence how the brain’s reward system works and how easily a person can control their impulsivity. Furthermore, research has shown that some people experience changes in their brain chemistry when they gamble. This can overstimulate their reward systems and decrease the pleasure they feel from winning or losing.

Gambling is not a good or healthy way to spend your time. It is important to balance your gambling with other activities that you enjoy and make sure you have enough money for what is really important in your life. Do not gamble on credit and do not borrow to fund your gambling. Do not gamble when you are depressed or upset, as this can increase your chances of making bad decisions. Also, remember that the more you gamble, the more you are likely to lose. If you are unable to walk away from your gambling, it is probably time to seek help.