Whether it’s playing cards or board games with friends for small amounts of money, betting on sports events or buying lottery tickets, everyone gambles at some point in their lives. For some, gambling is a harmless pastime, but for others it can damage their physical and mental health, strain relationships and cause financial problems including debt and homelessness. Psychiatric disorders associated with gambling include gambling addiction, pathological gambling, and compulsive gambling disorder (CGP).

Gambling involves placing something of value on an event that is determined at least in part by chance in order to win something else of value. It stimulates the brain’s reward system much like drugs and alcohol do, making it easy for some people to become addicted. When someone has a gambling disorder, they are obsessed with risk-taking and can’t control their urges. They may lie to family and friends, steal money or run up credit card debt to feed their addiction. Compulsive gambling disorder can start in adolescence or later in life, and men are more likely to develop the condition than women.

Getting help for gambling addiction is the first step toward recovery. Therapy can provide a safe place to talk through the issues that arise and learn coping skills. Counseling can also be helpful for addressing the effects of gambling on other areas of your life, such as work or family.