What Is Gambling?

Gambling is the risking of something of value, usually money, on an event that is uncertain and outside one’s control. It is an activity that can be conducted for profit, social status or entertainment. Gambling is also the activity of attempting to predict the outcome of a contest of chance or a future contingent event not under one’s control or influence, such as a lottery, sports game or horse race. In some instances, skill may improve the chances of winning – for example, knowledge of card game strategies or handicapping horses may help an individual win a horse race or a casino game.

The definition of gambling varies by jurisdiction. In the United States, the word is defined as “a wager upon a future contingency not under the participant’s control or influence, wherein the participant stakes an item of value on the result of a game of chance or a future event not under his or her control or influence.” However, the act does not include bona fide business transactions valid under the law of contracts, such as purchases of stocks and securities, contracts of indemnity or guaranty and life, health or accident insurance.

Problem gambling is a serious mental illness that can have devastating effects on your personal and professional life. It affects the brain’s reward system, causing you to seek out pleasure in unhealthy ways. It also sends massive surges of dopamine through your body, which can lead to harmful behaviors.

Symptoms of gambling disorder can vary, and may begin during early adolescence or adulthood. It can be triggered by a number of factors, including adverse childhood experiences, family trauma, drug or alcohol use and social inequality. It is also believed to be hereditary and tends to run in families.

While the exact cause is unknown, a consensus exists that gambling disorders are related to impulsiveness and problems with behavioral disinhibition. People who gamble compulsively often exhibit a pattern of recurrent risk-taking that includes chasing losses.

If you know someone who is struggling with a gambling addiction, encourage them to seek treatment for their condition. They can find support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, and many state-specific resources for helping with gambling disorder. Alternatively, they can look for other ways to self-soothe unpleasant emotions, relieve boredom or unwind, such as exercise, spending time with friends who do not gamble and practicing relaxation techniques. They should also consider counseling for underlying mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. These conditions can trigger or be made worse by gambling and should be addressed prior to pursuing recovery from the gambling disorder. They can also get help for financial issues that are exacerbated by gambling disorder, such as debt counseling or credit repair. Moreover, they can undergo psychotherapy such as cognitive behavioral therapy, group or marital/family therapy, or psychodynamic therapy. These therapies can help people recover from their addiction and build healthy relationships in the process.