Gambling involves risking something of value (money, possessions or property) on an event that is essentially random and unpredictable. Skill can improve the chances of winning but the outcome is still uncertain. Examples of gambling include: card games, fruit machines, slot machines, video poker, bingo, horse races, football accumulators and lottery tickets. It can also involve speculating on business, insurance or stock markets.

Problem gambling can damage relationships, affect work or study performance and lead to debt or even homelessness. It can also impact mental health, especially when it’s a symptom of depression or other mood disorders. It is estimated that 2.5 million U.S adults (1%) would meet the DSM-IV criteria for a pathological gambling disorder and another 5-8 million (2-3%) are experiencing problems associated with their gambling.

There are many things you can do to help reduce your gambling problems. The first step is to recognize that you have a problem. If you can’t stop thinking about gambling, then seek help from a professional who can offer support and guidance. If you can’t stop gambling, consider seeking inpatient or residential treatment programs, which can provide round-the-clock care and support.

You can also make lifestyle changes to help you quit gambling. For example, find healthier ways to relieve unpleasant emotions or boredom, such as exercising, spending time with friends who don’t gamble, volunteering, taking up a new hobby or trying relaxation techniques.

Try to avoid gambling environments where you can easily fall into temptation, such as casinos or betting shops. Keep your credit cards and mobile phones out of reach, let someone else be in charge of money you’ve been given to gamble with or have the bank set automatic payments for you, close online betting accounts and only keep a small amount of cash on you.

If you have a friend or family member who is struggling with gambling problems, talk to them and encourage them to seek help. Try joining a support group for gamblers, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is based on the 12-step model used in Alcoholics Anonymous. You can also find online support groups for problem gambling.

It’s important to understand that problem gambling is a complex issue and everyone experiences it differently. It’s possible to overcome a gambling addiction, but it takes time and you may have occasional setbacks. Be patient and don’t give up! If you are having serious problems, it’s a good idea to speak to your GP, who can refer you to specialist services. Men are more likely to develop a gambling problem than women, and older people are at greater risk than younger ones. You can also seek support from charities and self-help groups, which can offer advice on quitting. They can also help you get access to inpatient or residential treatment programmes, if you need it. You can also contact the Royal College of Psychiatrists for further information and guidance.