Benefits and risks of playing the lottery

Published: Jul. 14, 2016 at 6:28 AM CDT
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When a lottery jackpot starts to climb, so does excitement surrounding a big win.

Dr. Joe Rock is a psychologist at Cleveland Clinic. He says your chances of winning the lottery are pretty slim, but it's sure fun to dream.

"We all want to dream, and I think in our brains there's a part of our brains where fantasy is almost as good as reality," he said. "We start thinking about, 'What I'm going to do when I win that money? I'm going to buy that Mercedes Benz, I'm gonna quit my job. I'm gonna move to Cabo.' And whatever it is and that fantasy is enjoyable for a while."

Dr. Rock says our brains aren't wired to think about probability.

He says we understand the chances of winning aren't very good, but that we can delude ourselves into thinking we have a decent chance, and that excites us for a little while.

Dr. Rock says fantasizing about winning and what you'd spend the money on releases hormones and neurotransmitters in our bodies that can actually make us feel better physically.

Chipping in a couple of bucks as a group can be fun and bring folks together to share dreams and fantasies. For most, playing the lottery is pretty harmless but Dr. Rock says to keep in mind that it is low level gambling.

If people are getting upset when they lose or spending hundreds of dollars each week because they think they're going to win and make their living off of the lottery, that becomes a problem. He suggests people struggling with these issues avoid the temptation altogether.

"If you have the kind of personality where you realize that you can get carried away with that stuff, stay away from it, keep the money in your pocket and in some cases, take the temptation out of your hands, give the money to your spouse, keep the credit cards locked up, don't go where you don't want to go," Dr. Rock said.

If you do buy a ticket or two, Dr. Rock says it's okay to have fun with it, but it's also important to keep expectations realistic.