Gambling is risking something of value (money, property, or other assets) on an activity that depends primarily on chance in the hope of realizing a profit. It has existed in virtually every society throughout prerecorded history and is incorporated into local customs and rites of passage. The behavior may be a cause of distress or even mental illness, especially when it is out of control (see Disordered gambling, below).

Problematic gambling can result from any type of gambling and is not limited to casino games or betting on horse races. For example, a person can gamble by participating in fantasy sports leagues, online poker, DIY investing, or buying scratch tickets. In fact, most people don’t realize that these activities are considered gambling because they do not involve putting money on the line. However, they still stimulate the same reward pathways in the brain as any other type of gambling.

Some 2.5 million Americans (1%) meet diagnostic criteria for a severe gambling disorder and another 5-8 million (2-3%) are at risk for developing a serious gambling disorder. The risk for developing a gambling disorder increases with age and is higher in women than men.

Identifying a problem with gambling can be hard, especially for family members of someone who struggles with this addiction. If you feel that your loved one is struggling, it is important to seek support and find help for them. BetterHelp is an online therapy service that matches you with licensed, accredited therapists who can help with gambling, depression, anxiety, relationships, and more. Take our free assessment and be matched with a therapist in as little as 48 hours.