Gambling is risking money or something else of value on an event that has a high degree of uncertain outcome. People do it for many reasons. Some people gamble to relieve boredom or stress; others do it because they think that they have a chance of winning big money. Other motives include changing one’s mood (euphoria), socializing with friends, and increasing self-esteem. Gambling has the potential to be addictive. Some people develop gambling problems that are serious enough to meet the criteria for a pathological gambling disorder under the DSM-IV. Others may have mild or moderate gambling problems.

A gambling addiction can harm a person’s health, strain or destroy relationships and interfere with work or school performance. It can also lead to serious debt and even homelessness. Almost half of all adults engage in some form of gambling. Some people who gamble do so in secret or lie to family and friends about how much they gamble. They often try to “win back” their losses by gambling more and more, even if they have no more money to spare.

Although people who play games like slot machines or bingo are often thought of as gamblers, a broader definition of gambling encompasses all activities where a bet is placed and the outcome depends at least partly on chance. This includes playing cards, games of skill, such as poker, and betting on sports or horse races. In some cases, a person’s knowledge can improve their chances of winning, but the result is still based to some extent on random chance.

Some people consider trading stocks or other investments to be gambling, but this is only true if the gambler knows what they are doing and understands the odds of winning or losing. If a person has no understanding of the market or is relying on tips from a friend who doesn’t, it is gambling.

Many people with gambling problems hide their addiction from others, but it is important to reach out for help. There are many organizations that provide support groups and counseling for those with a gambling problem. Some of these organizations are based on 12-step programs, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, which has helped thousands of gamblers overcome their addiction. Other organizations focus on providing education about gambling and promoting responsible gambling.

It takes tremendous strength and courage to admit that you have a gambling problem, especially if you have lost a lot of money or strained or broken relationships as a result of your habit. But the first step is taking action. You can start by strengthening your support network, making new friends who don’t gamble, and learning to relieve unpleasant feelings in healthier ways. You can also seek therapy to address underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety, that can trigger gambling problems or make them worse. If you are ready to take the next step, BetterHelp can match you with a licensed, accredited therapist who specializes in addiction and can help you with your gambling disorder.