Whether it’s betting on a football match or buying a scratchcard, gambling involves making a decision to risk money in exchange for the chance of winning. This decision is matched to ‘odds’, which determine the amount of money that could be won if the gamble succeeds. Odds are calculated by a mathematical formula, similar to the way insurance premiums are set using actuarial methods.

Gambling is fun, but it can also be dangerous for those with an addiction. It can lead to: (1) a distorted sense of the probability of winning or losing (delusional thinking); (2) a feeling of being in control even though the outcome of an event is not in your hands (impulsiveness); (3) lying to family members, friends and professionals (deception); and (4) sacrificing important things, such as education, employment, financial security, or relationships, to gamble (compulsion).

The first step in dealing with a gambling problem is acknowledging that you have one. It can be hard to do, especially if you’ve lost a lot of money and have strained or broken relationships as a result. The next steps are to find a support network and seek treatment. Treatment options include psychotherapy, such as cognitive behavioral therapy, and support groups such as Gamblers Anonymous, which use peer support to help people overcome their addictions. You may also benefit from marriage, career, and credit counseling to work through issues that are contributing to your gambling habits. In addition to these treatments, research has shown that physical activity can also improve the mood of someone who is addicted to gambling.