Gambling is any activity in which you risk money or possessions in the hope of winning a prize. It includes games of chance, such as scratchcards or fruit machines, and bets on sporting events or elections, as well as activities that require some level of skill (for example card playing or horse racing). It can also include speculating on business, insurance or stock markets.

Some people can gamble without any problem, but others may have a gambling disorder that is a serious mental health condition. People with gambling disorders can have difficulty controlling their urges, often even when they know it’s causing harm in their lives and relationships. They may have trouble sleeping, withdraw from friends and family, lose control of their finances and be at high risk for suicide.

A gambling disorder can be difficult to diagnose because it’s not always obvious and it affects different people in different ways. But there are some signs to look out for, such as:

Symptoms of a gambling disorder can begin in adolescence or later on in life. They can be triggered by trauma, poverty or social inequality, and they are more likely to occur in men than women. They can also run in families.

There are a number of things you can do to help if someone close to you has a gambling problem. You can try to change their environment by moving them away from places where they’re more likely to gamble, such as casinos or racetracks. You can set financial boundaries by taking over their credit cards or putting them in somebody else’s name, and you can get them involved in healthy activities that they enjoy instead of gambling.

Gambling can be addictive because of the rush of winning and losing. However, you can reduce the chances of becoming addicted to gambling by setting limits on how much you spend and how long you gamble. You should never gamble with money you can’t afford to lose. You can also try to use skills to improve your odds of winning, such as predicting the result of a game of chance, using strategies in card games or knowing about horses and jockeys in horse racing.

There are a number of ways to overcome problems with gambling, including counselling and support groups. Talking to a counsellor can be useful for those with gambling disorders because they can teach you how to recognise the triggers of your addiction and develop better coping skills. Some types of therapy used to treat gambling disorder include cognitive behavioral therapy and psychodynamic therapy. You can also find support by calling a helpline or attending a self-help group for gambling addicts, such as Gamblers Anonymous. It’s important to seek help early, because if you don’t, it can have serious consequences for your health, wellbeing and relationships. Longitudinal studies are an important tool to study the onset and maintenance of problem gambling behavior, and these can be particularly useful in identifying factors that contribute to its development.