When people gamble, they risk something of value (such as money or property) on an event with some element of randomness or chance. The goal is to win something of equal or greater value. Gambling can include skill-based games like card and dice games, lotteries and sports betting as well as speculative activities such as predicting future events or stock market movements.

It’s important to recognize the signs of gambling problems so you can seek help. If you think your gambling is out of control, seek help from a therapist or support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Consider joining an inpatient treatment program or a residential rehab for severe addictions, where you’ll receive round-the-clock care and support to help you quit gambling altogether.

Some people use gambling to cope with unpleasant emotions or relieve boredom. Others find it addictive because it gives them a rush of excitement and anticipation. However, the odds of winning are always against the player and the feeling is short-lived. People with a gambling disorder often try to get back that initial high by betting more money, and they may even steal or borrow to fund their habit.

In addition, some people find it hard to separate their emotional well-being from their gambling habits. This is because they associate their happiness with their wins and successes, and they feel unhappy when they lose. They also tend to lie about their gambling activities, hiding evidence of their behavior or denying that it’s causing them any harm.

Unlike a drug or alcohol addiction, which usually involves taking a substance, the urge to gamble is caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain’s reward system. Research has shown that gambling can activate this system, creating feelings of euphoria and pleasure similar to those produced by other drugs. As a person begins to gamble more, his or her brain chemistry changes, and the level of pleasure experienced decreases. The compulsion to gamble increases to obtain the same level of euphoria, which is why it’s so difficult to break the habit.

The decision to change the psychiatric classification of pathological gambling reflects our growing understanding of the biology underlying addiction. It is now considered an impulse-control disorder, alongside other disorders such as kleptomania and pyromania (fire-starting). As a result of the decision, the American Psychiatric Association removed it from its list of warning signs in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which informs psychologists about the behaviors that constitute a mental illness. This is a significant step forward, because it makes it easier for psychiatrists to help patients with this disorder. This is especially important because the disorder has many similarities to other addictive behaviors, such as kleptomania and trichotillomania (hair-pulling).