Gambling is the wagering of something of value (such as money or property) on an event with a chance of winning something else of value (the prize). It includes all types of betting and is regulated by laws in some countries and regulated or banned in others. Some people have a problem with gambling and become dependent on it. This is called compulsive gambling, and it can cause serious mental health problems.
Most adults and adolescents have placed some type of bet at one time or another. A small subset of these individuals develops a problem with gambling to the extent that it interferes with their everyday lives. The disorder is described in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a recurrent pattern of behavior that involves risk taking with an inability to control impulses. People who have a history of gambling-related problems tend to be in poorer economic circumstances, and males outnumber females with the disorder.
Many factors contribute to the development of problematic gambling behaviors, including biological vulnerabilities, personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions. In addition, many individuals who have a gambling problem have other personal and family issues that may need to be addressed as part of treatment.
The first step in dealing with a gambling addiction is admitting that there is a problem. Then, taking action by changing unhealthy thoughts and behaviors, setting boundaries, addressing stressors, finding new activities, seeking support and attending a gambling-specific recovery group such as Gamblers Anonymous are all important steps.