Many people enjoy gambling for the thrill of winning, but for some people it becomes an addiction. When gambling is taken out of control it can result in financial distress and broken relationships. The good news is that help is available. The first step is admitting that you have a problem and seeking treatment. If you are struggling with a gambling addiction, it is important to find a therapist who specializes in helping individuals with problem gambling. Thankfully, you can easily find a therapist online with the world’s largest therapy service, BetterHelp.

Gambling is a popular leisure activity with a large global market. In 2023, it is estimated that more than $10 trillion was wagered legally worldwide, including casino games, sports betting, and lottery games. The industry is regulated by government agencies in many countries and has become a major source of revenue for local economies.

The majority of people who gamble do so responsibly and do not have any problems. However, about three to four percent of Americans report some level of problem gambling, and one to two percent experience serious gambling-related problems. These problems often affect family members, friends, and work colleagues. The resulting stress and anxiety can cause depression, which is a risk factor for problem gambling.

Some forms of gambling are more likely to lead to a problem than others, such as sports betting and the lottery. The most common type of problem gambling is pathological (compulsive) gambling, which is characterized by maladaptive patterns of behavior that are associated with significant distress or impairment. People with PG typically begin gambling in adolescence or young adulthood and continue to gamble even after they have significant losses.

During gambling, the brain releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter that activates parts of the brain similar to those affected by drugs of abuse. This chemical response can make it difficult for people to quit gambling once they have started. It also influences their perception of the odds of winning or losing. For example, they may believe that they have a higher chance of winning than is actually true. This perception of a higher likelihood of winning may encourage them to gamble more and increase their losses.

Some people with a gambling problem are able to overcome their addiction by getting treatment, joining a support group, and making lifestyle changes. However, for some, a compulsion to gamble can ruin their lives and leave them in debt with no way to pay their bills. This can have a negative impact on society, as those who are struggling with a gambling addiction may need to rely on social welfare benefits or require psychological counseling. In addition, they can damage their personal and business relationships. Those who are in debt should seek help from StepChange, which provides free and confidential debt advice. They should not be encouraged to gamble to try and pay off their debts. They should also avoid alcohol and other drugs while gambling.