Gambling is the act of risking something of value, such as money or property, on an event whose outcome is uncertain. While most people who gamble do so responsibly, a small proportion develop gambling disorder, a condition that affects a person’s ability to control their gambling behavior.

Gambling disorders can be the result of many factors, including genetics, childhood experiences, and social and environmental influences. Some researchers believe that a person’s vulnerability to gambling disorder is related to their brain anatomy and how the reward systems in their brains respond to risk. People with certain conditions, such as schizophrenia, are also at greater risk for developing a gambling disorder.

Some people may not recognize they have a problem with gambling, even when it has serious consequences in their lives. It’s important to get help when you feel it is needed, especially if you have children. In addition, if someone you know has a gambling problem, it’s important to offer support and help them seek treatment.

Most adults and adolescents have gambled at one time or another, usually without incident. However, a small percentage of gamblers develop pathological gambling disorder, a condition that affects their ability to control their gambling behaviors. Pathological gambling is recognized in the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), published by the American Psychiatric Association.

In general, gambling is considered an addictive behavior because of the negative effects that it can have on a person’s life and relationships. It is also a major source of legal problems in our society, with criminal penalties ranging from misdemeanor to felony levels.

The risk of a gambling disorder increases with age and gender. Adolescents and young people are particularly susceptible because their brains have not yet matured, making them more likely to take risks and develop bad habits. Men are more than twice as likely to have a gambling addiction as women, and they are more likely to develop pathological gambling.

It is important to evaluate patients who are at risk of a gambling disorder in primary care settings, and to consider referrals to specialists for diagnosis and treatment. A growing number of healthcare providers are recognizing the role they can play in identifying and treating patients with gambling disorders.

It can be difficult to talk about gambling with a patient, especially when it is a part of their culture and identity. Framing the issue as a health issue can reduce resistance and encourage patients to seek help. There are many other ways to relieve unpleasant feelings or boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, and practicing relaxation techniques. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help you with depression, anxiety, relationship issues, and more. Take our assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.