Gambling involves risking something of value on an event that is at least partly determined by chance and with the intention of winning something else of value. It may also involve speculating on business, insurance or the stock market. Technology has blurred the line between different ways to gamble and it is now possible to wager money in a variety of ways on-line or by telephone, with instant access to information that was previously only available from books or newspapers.

Problem gambling can harm people’s mental and physical health, relationships, work and study performance, and even lead to homelessness. It can also damage a family’s finances and credit.

Although it is a complex and difficult problem to treat, it is becoming more widely recognized. In the past it was often dismissed as a mere vice or human weakness, but now most medical professionals agree that gambling addiction is a real disease. There are many effective treatments for problem gambling, including cognitive-behavioral therapy that teaches people to resist unwanted impulses and confront irrational beliefs, such as the idea that a string of losses signals an imminent win.

It can be hard for families to cope with a loved one’s gambling problem, but it is important to seek help. The first step is admitting that there is a problem, which can be difficult for some people who have lost a lot of money and suffered strain on their relationships as a result. There are also peer support groups, like Gamblers Anonymous, that follow a 12-step recovery program similar to Alcoholics Anonymous.