Gambling involves risking something of value on a random event with the hope of winning money or another prize. It ranges from the purchase of a lottery ticket to wagering on a sporting event or a game of skill, such as a card or board game. It can take place in casinos, racetracks, or even online. While many people who gamble do so responsibly, some may develop a gambling disorder, which can lead to serious problems and financial loss. In some cases, it can even cause family discord and social isolation. The good news is that overcoming a gambling addiction is possible. There are a number of different treatment and recovery options available. One way to begin is to strengthen your support network by spending more time with family and friends. In addition, you can seek out a peer support group, such as Gamblers Anonymous, which is modeled after Alcoholics Anonymous and provides valuable guidance and encouragement.

A person who has a gambling disorder can be addicted to any form of gambling, including casino games, horse races, sports events, and even video games. In fact, studies indicate that more people are affected by Internet gambling than by any other form of gambling. This is because the convenience and anonymity of online gambling makes it easier for problem gamblers to hide their behavior from others. Moreover, problem gamblers often engage in secretive behaviors and lie to family members about their gambling habits, believing that they will not be believed.

Historically, the psychiatric community has viewed pathological gambling as more of a compulsion than an addiction, and it was placed in the category of impulse control disorders alongside kleptomania, pyromania, and trichotillomania (hair-pulling). However, in a decision that is widely viewed as a landmark move, the American Psychiatric Association moved the disorder to the Addictions chapter of its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in the latest edition, published this year.

The APA’s move to classify gambling as an addictive disorder reflects increased knowledge of the biology of addiction, as well as changes in social attitudes toward gambling. It also may reflect the increasing recognition that, like other addictions, gambling affects not only a person’s finances but also his or her relationships, work life, and self-esteem.

Despite the popularity of gambling as an entertainment activity and the allure of the idea of winning big, the practice is not socially acceptable. It can lead to the impoverishment of families and individuals and can facilitate blackmail and crime. Regardless of legality, gambling can be dangerous and can lead to mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.