Gambling involves placing something of value at risk (usually money) on an event with a chance of winning a bigger prize. Common forms of gambling include lotteries, cards, bingo, slot machines, instant scratch tickets, horse races, sports events and pokies (slot machines). Gambling is legal in most countries. Some estimates put the amount of money that is legally wagered each year worldwide at about $10 trillion.

The most important thing to remember about gambling is that it’s a game of chance. While some people do become addicted to gambling, it’s not the same as a chemical addiction like cocaine or heroin. Some people who gamble have a psychological condition called compulsive gambling, which is classified as an impulse control disorder. It’s possible to overcome a gambling problem. But the first step is acknowledging that there’s a problem and getting help.

Problem gambling can affect your health, finances and relationships. You may start to feel guilty, ashamed or depressed about your gambling behavior. You may also start to lose interest in other things you used to enjoy, such as socializing or cooking. Problem gambling can even interfere with your job and family life.

The causes of gambling disorder aren’t fully understood, but they may include genetics and a history of childhood trauma. Some studies suggest that gambling disorder runs in families, and identical twins are more likely to have the same gambling problems than non-identical twins. Gambling can also trigger a surge of dopamine in the brain, which is the same neurotransmitter that’s released when you spend time with loved ones or eat a juicy steak. This can lead to an unhealthy cycle where you seek pleasure from gambling instead of from healthy activities like eating and working.

Many people have a flutter on the lottery, play cards, or bet on horses and sports events. While these activities aren’t necessarily harmful, they can have serious consequences for some people. For about 20 million Americans, gambling is a serious problem that interferes with work and family life. The biggest challenge is finding treatment that works. Various studies show that a combination of therapies is most effective. For example, cognitive-behavior therapy can teach you to resist unwanted thoughts and habits. It can also help you confront irrational beliefs, such as the belief that a string of losses indicates an imminent win.

If you’re struggling with gambling, get help today. The world’s largest therapy service can match you with a therapist who specializes in gambling disorders and other issues. Call now or book online to start the journey toward a healthier you.