Gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance, with the hope of winning a prize. The word “gambling” is most often used to describe activities that involve a bet on events such as horse races, card games, or lotteries. However, scratchcards and office pool betting are also considered gambling activities. Some people, particularly those with mental health problems, are at increased risk of harmful gambling behavior. These individuals may gamble to cope with mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety. They might also be attracted to gambling as a way to escape from their daily lives and problems, such as relationships, debt, or work.

Unlike other types of addictive behavior, gambling is not always associated with the same biological mechanisms that underlie addiction to substances such as alcohol and cocaine. Instead, psychologists have attributed gambling addiction to impulse control problems. The psychiatric community previously regarded pathological gambling as a type of compulsive disorder, a fuzzy label that included other behaviors such as kleptomania (stealing) and pyromania (setting fires). However, the APA’s decision to move gambling to the addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) was widely viewed as a landmark change that reflects a growing understanding of the biology of impulse control disorders.

The psychology of gambling involves a number of different theories, including sensation-seeking and novelty-seeking. Sensation-seeking theory implies that people engage in gamblers because of the positive arousal and excitement of winning, while novelty-seeking theory suggests that people enjoy gambling activities because they are new and different from other forms of entertainment. Regardless of the underlying motivation, many people are unable to control their gambling and develop an addiction.

It is important to know that it is not easy to stop gambling, especially if you have been a problem gambler for a long time. You will have to change your mindset, and set yourself realistic goals that you can achieve over a long period of time. To help you on your journey, consider talking to a trained therapist and joining a support group. In addition, you can seek treatment at an inpatient or residential program, which is aimed at those who are unable to stay away from gambling without round-the-clock care.

If you are struggling with gambling problems, it is important to seek help immediately. It can be very difficult to admit that you have a problem, and you might be tempted to hide your activity from others. Having a good support system can make all the difference, so it is crucial to enlist the help of family and friends. There are also a number of professional support services that can help, including family therapy and marriage, career, and credit counseling. If you are in financial difficulty, you can speak to StepChange for free and confidential debt advice.