Gambling is the wagering of something of value (usually money) on a random event that has an uncertain outcome, such as a lottery, casino games, or sports events. In the past, psychiatry generally viewed pathological gambling as more of an impulse control disorder, similar to kleptomania or trichotillomania (hair-pulling), but in its latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder into the category of addictions.

Problem gambling is a complex condition, and people with this addiction often have other mental health problems, such as depression or anxiety, that make it harder to stop gambling. The good news is that effective treatments are available. These include psychotherapy, which can teach people to change their thoughts and behaviors; cognitive-behavioral therapy, which helps individuals learn how to resist unwanted urges; and family therapy, which teaches loved ones how to support an individual with a gambling addiction.

Some people with this disorder start gambling for coping reasons, such as to forget their worries or to feel more self-confident. Others may begin to gamble for the thrill of winning or the potential of a big payout. Understanding why your loved one is gambling can help you avoid getting angry at them for their early wins and loses, and instead encourage them to seek treatment.

It is also important to know your own limits, so set spending and time limits before you begin gambling. It is also helpful to have a friend or family member who can check in on you when you start gambling too much.