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The act of betting or staking something of value on the outcome of a game of chance, or an uncertain event. It includes the placing of wagers upon sports events, games of skill or chance and lotteries. It does not include bona fide business transactions or contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health and accident insurance. It is not a socially admirable activity and can impoverish families, encourage criminal activities and be controlled by organized crime groups.

There is a growing consensus that gambling is an addictive behaviour that has consequences for the gambler, his or her family and friends. It can be triggered by an underactive brain reward system, cognitive distortions and impulsivity. Genetic predisposition to thrill-seeking and the ability to control impulses may also play a role.

A person is considered to be addicted to gambling when he or she has lost control of the gambling activity to such an extent that it negatively affects his or her health, work or social functioning. In addition, a person may lie and hide evidence of the gambling activities or become preoccupied with thoughts about gambling. A person with a gambling disorder often experiences depression or anxiety and has difficulty in forming and maintaining healthy relationships. In extreme cases, a person with a gambling disorder can lose his or her job, become homeless and/or commit suicide.

Gambling is a popular pastime that can be fun and exciting, but it can also hurt physical and mental health, damage relationships, cause financial problems and even lead to crime. Problem gambling can also have a negative impact on work or study performance. In addition, it can cause stress, anxiety and depression and can interfere with a person’s sleep. It can also lead to addictions to drugs and alcohol, which can lead to further problems.

Symptoms of gambling disorders are similar to symptoms of other addictions, including withdrawal, tolerance and relapse. Treatments for gambling disorders involve psychotherapy, group therapy and family therapy and psychiatric medications. Psychotherapy focuses on changing the thoughts and behaviors that contribute to gambling addiction. During therapy, a person with a gambling disorder learns to recognize irrational beliefs such as the idea that a string of losses or a close call (like two out of three cherries on a slot machine) signals an imminent win. Treatment also includes learning how to resist unwanted thoughts and habits.

In many communities, gambling is seen as a socially acceptable activity. This can make it difficult to recognise when gambling is causing harm. In addition, some people find it hard to seek help for gambling addiction because they feel ashamed or think that it is a sign of weakness. There are organisations that can provide support, advice and counselling for anyone who is worried about their own gambling or the gambling of a friend or family member. These services are free and confidential.