Gambling is the wagering of money or something else of value on an event whose outcome depends on chance. This includes betting on sports events, playing slot machines, scratchcards and other games of chance. It doesn’t include bona fide business transactions valid under the law, such as contracts for the sale of goods or services, agreements to buy and sell securities and commodities, and life, health or accident insurance.

The main reason gambling can be addictive is that it triggers the brain’s reward center. When you gamble, your brain releases a hormone called dopamine, which makes you feel good. This feeling is similar to the one you get from eating a chocolate bar or spending time with a friend.

Many people start gambling as a way to relieve stress or boredom, but it often leads to other problems. Gambling can also affect your work, family and social life. Ultimately, it can lead to financial disaster. If you find yourself gambling more than you can afford, it is important to seek help.

A mental health professional can help you overcome your gambling disorder by teaching you healthier behaviors and changing unhealthy thoughts. Some types of psychotherapy are especially helpful for problem gambling. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is an evidence-based treatment that teaches you to identify and challenge negative beliefs about gambling. Another type of psychotherapy, motivational interviewing, helps you solve your uncertainty about healthy change.

Research suggests that certain personality traits and coexisting mental health conditions are associated with gambling addiction. People with impulsivity and low self-control may be at greater risk of developing a gambling disorder than those who are more emotionally stable. Similarly, those with depression or anxiety may be more likely to experience symptoms of gambling disorders such as increased urges to gamble and impaired judgment.

Other factors that can contribute to a gambling disorder include family history and culture. Some communities view gambling as a normal pastime and may be less likely to recognize the behavior as a problem. Likewise, some families and individuals may have a deep belief in luck that makes them believe they can win big.

Despite these factors, it is possible to stop gambling and recover from the problem. Try strengthening your support network, finding healthy ways to handle stress and seeking counseling from a mental health professional. In addition, consider joining a peer support group like Gamblers Anonymous or attending family counseling for problem gamblers, such as Gam-Anon. Also, distract yourself by taking up a new hobby or exercising. Postponing gambling can help you resist the urge and it will give you more time to think about what you’re deciding to do. If you do decide to gamble, choose small bets with a small amount of money and don’t chase your losses. The sooner you stop chasing your losses, the more you’ll have to gain.