Gambling is a risky activity in which people stake money or something of value on the outcome of an event determined at least in part by chance. It can be done through betting on sports, games of skill like poker, or by purchasing lottery tickets or scratchcards. Some forms of gambling are legal, and some are illegal. The amount of money that is legally wagered each year worldwide is estimated to be about $10 trillion (illegal gambling probably exceeds this).

For some people, gambling can provide a sense of excitement and enjoyment, but for others it can have serious consequences. Gambling problems can damage health, strain relationships, hurt performance at work or school and lead to financial difficulty. In some cases, they can even cause suicide.

In the United States, about 2.5 million adults (1%) meet the criteria for a severe gambling disorder in a given year. Another 5-8 million people (2-3%) experience mild gambling problems. People with a severe problem often require inpatient treatment or rehabilitation programs. Those with milder gambling problems may benefit from outpatient treatment and self-help resources.

Many people find gambling a fun pastime that helps them socialize with friends and relax. However, the thrill of winning and losing can quickly escalate into a problem, especially for those who are impulsive or have poor impulse control. This is because they’re unable to stop or control their behavior when the urge strikes.

A person’s personality traits, family history and genetic predisposition can also influence the likelihood of developing a gambling disorder. People with low incomes are more likely to be affected, and young people—particularly boys and men—are at greater risk for developing a problem.

Gambling is a highly addictive activity, and it can cause significant psychological distress. Some people may even develop a comorbid mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety. This can make it harder for them to seek help or treatment.

There are several different types of treatments for gambling disorders, including group or individual therapy and family therapy. These can help individuals work through specific issues related to their addiction and start to repair relationships. In some cases, a person with a gambling disorder may need professional counseling to address other issues that are contributing to their gambling behaviors, such as debt problems or relationship difficulties.

The first step in getting help is admitting that you have a problem. It can take courage and strength to face this reality, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money or have strained or broken relationships because of your gambling habit. If you’re struggling with a gambling disorder, BetterHelp can match you with a licensed, accredited therapist who can help. Take our free assessment and get matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours. Start your journey to recovery today!