Gambling is an activity where something of value (money or possessions) is risked on an event with a random element, where instances of strategy are discounted. It can be played by one person alone or in a group, and involves consideration, risk and a prize. It’s often used as a way to make money, but it can also have an adverse impact on physical and mental health, relationships and work performance. Problem gambling can even lead to debt, homelessness and suicide.

Most people who gamble do so without any problems, but a small number go on to develop a gambling disorder. This is defined in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5), as a recurrent pattern of gambling behavior that causes significant distress or impairment. There are many types of gambling, and the risks vary from one person to the next. However, the most common form of gambling is betting on sports events or horse races, using lottery tickets, playing the slots in a casino and placing bets online.

In general, a person’s urge to gamble is triggered by a combination of factors, including impulsiveness and sensation-and novelty-seeking. In addition, some people are more inclined to gamble than others because they have an innate desire to take risks. Others may be more susceptible to gambling as a result of family, social or cultural influences.

People may also gamble to relieve boredom or stress, and this is a particularly important factor when gambling is digital, as people can do it anywhere, anytime. However, this is not a healthy way to relieve unpleasant feelings and it’s important to learn healthier ways of doing so. Try exercise, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, practicing relaxation techniques or trying new hobbies.

There are a variety of different treatment options for gambling disorders, from outpatient programs to residential and inpatient care. However, the first step is always acknowledging that there is a problem. If you or someone you know is struggling with a gambling disorder, it’s crucial to get help as soon as possible.

A person who has a gambling addiction may feel the need to keep this behaviour secret or lie about their involvement, or they might try to win back any money they’ve lost by increasing their bets. They might also experience depression, anxiety or other symptoms of an underlying condition.

If you or a loved one has a gambling disorder, it can be hard to admit it, especially if they’ve already spent money on a habit they can’t control or have strained relationships as a result. BetterHelp is an online therapist service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help with gambling addiction, depression and anxiety. You can take our free assessment and be matched with a therapist within 48 hours. You can then work with them to overcome your problem and build a stronger, more fulfilling life.