Gambling is an activity in which players place bets on the outcome of a game or event. Gambling can also refer to the buying and selling of tickets or other items that are used for gambling purposes, such as sports memorabilia. Gambling can also include online casino games and horse races.

People can get addicted to gambling for a variety of reasons. They may gamble to relax, relieve boredom or stress, or for a rush of excitement. However, there are healthier ways to handle these feelings, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, or practicing relaxation techniques. People can also find new hobbies or other activities to do that don’t involve money, such as taking a class, joining a book club, or volunteering for a cause.

Some people may have a higher risk of developing harmful gambling behaviour because of their personality traits, including impulsivity and sensation-seeking. Genetic factors, such as an underactive brain reward system, may also play a role in how a person processes rewards and manages impulses. Certain mental health conditions, such as depression and anxiety, can also trigger or make worse gambling problems.

Other risk factors for gambling problems include age and gender. Younger and middle-aged people may be more likely to develop compulsive gambling behaviour. Those with a family history of gambling addiction are more likely to have a problem. And women who start gambling later in life often have more severe problems than men.

Several types of psychotherapy can help a person overcome a gambling disorder. These treatments can be individual or group-based, and they are aimed at changing unhealthy emotions and thoughts that lead to problematic gambling behaviour. They can also teach a person better coping skills for dealing with boredom, anger and stress.

Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration doesn’t approve any medications to treat gambling disorders, some drugs can help with related symptoms such as irritability, restlessness and fatigue. Medications can also help with mood swings and improve sleep quality.

It can be difficult to cope with a loved one’s gambling problems, especially if you feel angry or ashamed that they have become addicted. Remember that your loved ones didn’t choose to become gamblers, and they likely don’t know how their gambling is affecting them. Try to be understanding and avoid blaming them for their choices. Other forms of therapy can also help, such as marriage, career and credit counselling. And there are support groups for those with gambling problems, such as Gamblers Anonymous. They follow a 12-step recovery program based on Alcoholics Anonymous and are led by former gamblers. They can also help you set healthy financial boundaries and provide advice on how to deal with stress, anxiety and negative emotions. If you are struggling with debt, speak to StepChange for free, confidential debt advice.