While occasional gambling can provide a fun and exciting experience, a subset of people develop a serious problem called gambling disorder, which is defined by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as “a recurrent pattern of gambling that is associated with distress or impairment.” If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction to gambling, it’s important to seek help. Fortunately, there are many treatment options available.

Gambling is a global activity that can take place in almost any setting where money is exchanged for a stake, such as casinos, horse racetracks, and even football pools. In addition, gambling can also be done with material that has a value but is not real money (for example, marbles or collectible trading card games). The most common form of gambling is lotteries, which are organized by states and other organizations in nearly all countries in the world.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, including making money, socializing with friends or simply enjoying the thrill of risk. In addition, gambling can be a very addictive activity and may lead to serious financial problems, such as bankruptcy. It is also a common cause of family stress.

Despite the appeal of winning big, most people who gamble lose more than they win. The average person loses about 17% of what they bet. When a person loses more than they can afford to pay back, it is a sign that they should stop gambling and consider seeking professional help.

A person who has a gambling problem will often make repeated attempts to control or cut back on their gambling, but is unsuccessful. In addition, they will often gamble when they are feeling distressed or anxious and may lie to others to conceal their gambling habits. Frequently, they will try to get their money back from gambling by gambling again, an activity known as chasing losses. In severe cases, a person with a gambling disorder can jeopardize a job, education, career, or relationship as a result of their behavior.

When a person has a problem with gambling, it is critical to avoid places where they can easily gamble and surround themselves with supportive people. Additionally, it is helpful to find new hobbies and social activities that can replace gambling. If you are a family member of a problem gambler, you can try to support them by setting boundaries in managing the money they use for gambling. You can also help by offering encouragement and joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and uses a 12-step program to encourage recovery.

Gambling is a dangerous and potentially life-threatening behavior that can be difficult to overcome without help. Fortunately, there are many treatment and support resources available for those who struggle with this disorder. Talk to a friend or family member, seek professional treatment, or call the National Gambling Helpline for help and advice. The sooner you address the issue, the more likely it will be that you can regain control of your life.