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Gambling is an activity where a person puts something of value, usually money, at risk on an event with a chance of winning a higher amount of money. This can include betting on games of chance, such as lottery tickets, bingo, slots, machines, instant scratch cards and races or sports events. It can also include activities where there is an element of skill, such as playing a card game or sport, or an activity that requires social interaction and cooperation, such as poker.

People gamble for a variety of reasons, including the excitement of winning, socialising and distracting themselves from negative feelings. However, for some, gambling can become a problem and have serious implications for their mental health.

If you are worried that your gambling is getting out of control, seek help from a mental health professional or support group as soon as possible. There are a number of ways to get help, including self-help tips and psychotherapy. Different types of therapy work better for different people. For example, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can help people with gambling problems by changing their thought patterns and coping skills. Family therapy is another option, and can help the whole family understand the condition and how it affects everyone.

Some experts believe that pathological gambling is a type of impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania or pyromania. But the American Psychiatric Association moved it to the addictions chapter in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-5. This change suggests that researchers now consider pathological gambling to be an addiction like any other, and that individuals who experience adverse consequences as a result of their gambling behavior should be treated in the same way as those who have a substance use disorder.

In fact, there is a growing body of evidence that shows that some people are predisposed to developing compulsive gambling behaviors. People who have a close relative with gambling disorders, or have suffered trauma, may be at higher risk for developing a problem themselves. Age and sex are also factors, with younger and middle-aged people more likely to develop a gambling problem than older adults. Compulsive gambling is more common in men than in women, and it tends to run in families.

A person’s risk for developing gambling problems can be determined by taking a personality test and evaluating their gambling history. Other factors that can contribute to a gambling problem are stress, drug and alcohol abuse, and other mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Symptoms of a gambling problem can include lying to family members and friends, hiding spending habits, borrowing money, or continuing to gamble even when it has a negative impact on relationships and finances. Some people with a gambling disorder need to be on medication to help manage their symptoms, and others benefit from therapy or self-help tips. For example, if you are struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential debt advice.