Gambling is when people risk something of value, like money or property, in an attempt to win a prize. Most adults and adolescents gamble without any problems, but for some people gambling can lead to serious addictions that cause personal and financial distress. In addition to the negative effects, gambling can have a positive impact on communities by generating income that is used for local services and infrastructure projects.

Gambling causes a chemical surge in the brain called dopamine, which makes you feel pleasure. Over time, this can change your brain chemistry and you may begin to need gambling to feel pleasure. People with low incomes and younger people are more likely to develop a gambling disorder. It also tends to run in families, suggesting a genetic link. It’s not clear what causes it, but other factors include stress and coexisting mental health conditions.

It’s possible to overcome a gambling disorder, but it takes effort and support. A good place to start is by seeking help from a therapist or counselor who can help you identify unhealthy emotions, thoughts and behaviors that drive your behavior. Some people find success with self-help groups, such as Gamblers Anonymous. Physical activity can also reduce the urge to gamble. And if you do get the urge, try postponing the action for a while to see if it passes. In severe cases, treatment and rehab programs are available to help you break your gambling habit.