Gambling is the placing of something of value, such as money, on a random event with an intent to win something else of value (a prize or “chips” in a casino). It involves risk and the possibility of loss. It is an important source of revenue for some governments and has been the cause of much controversy. It is estimated that worldwide, about $10 trillion is legally wagered annually, with lotteries being the largest source of gambling.

Pathological gambling (PG) is characterized by persistent and recurrent maladaptive patterns of gambling behaviors that are significantly distressing to the person who engages in them. PG usually begins in adolescence or young adulthood and affects more men than women. Those with PG tend to gamble for longer periods of time and to engage in more nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive forms of gambling, such as slot machines or bingo.

It is possible to overcome gambling addiction, and it can be easier when the individual has a strong support network and a commitment to stop gambling. Those with serious problems should consider inpatient treatment and rehab programs modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous, or seeking a sponsor in a peer support group such as Gamblers Anonymous.

Often, people who gamble are doing so for coping reasons. They may be doing it to forget their worries, to feel more self-confident, or to relieve boredom. If you have a family member who is struggling with a gambling problem, try to understand their motives and the ways they are trying to cope. This will help you to be a better support system and avoid getting angry at them for their actions.