Gambling involves putting something of value at risk for a chance to win money or other prizes. People gamble in casinos, racetracks, and on the Internet. It can be a fun, harmless way to spend time. But it can also lead to serious problems for some people.

There are a variety of causes of gambling disorders. Some of them are caused by mood disorders, such as depression or anxiety. Others are caused by stress or substance abuse. Problems with family relationships, work, and finances can also trigger or make worse gambling problems. Treatment options for gambling disorders include therapy, self-help, and peer support groups.

A person who is addicted to gambling may be unable to control their urges and feel that they can’t stop gambling even when it has negative consequences for them and their family. In some cases, a person with an addiction to gambling will hide their gambling from others or lie about how much they’re spending.

People who gamble for excitement, to socialise, or as a way to relieve boredom are often trying to meet psychological needs that can’t be met in other ways. Some of these needs include sensation-seeking and novelty-seeking. Zuckerman’s theory of sensation-seeking suggests that individuals gamble for the positive reinforcement provided by states of high arousal and uncertainty. Cloninger’s theory of novelty-seeking suggests that individuals seek stimulation from new experiences and different types of rewards.

Another reason that some people develop a gambling disorder is that they are under excessive stress or have low self-esteem. This can make them feel a need to “stimulate” their brains, as they would do by taking drugs or drinking alcohol. Many people who have a gambling disorder are also at risk for suicide, and they should always seek help if they have thoughts of harming themselves or others.

Although some people with gambling disorders will recover from their problems, many won’t. Those who have a pathological gambling disorder are considered to be in recovery when they attend Gamblers Anonymous or other forms of treatment and have no longer met the diagnostic criteria for pathological gambling. Other treatments for gambling disorders involve family or individual therapy, credit counseling, or psychiatric medication.

The best way to treat a gambling problem is to get help from a counselor or peer support group. It is also important to address any underlying mental health issues that are contributing to the problem, such as depression or anxiety. Finally, it is important to strengthen your support network and find healthy activities to replace gambling. This can be done by finding new friends who don’t gamble, joining a book club or sports team, exercising, or learning relaxation techniques. It’s also a good idea to limit your access to money by getting rid of credit cards, having someone else be in charge of your finances, closing online betting accounts, and only gambling with the amount you can afford to lose. If you’re struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential advice.