While most adults and adolescents have placed some type of bet, only a small percentage develop a gambling disorder that is classified in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders as a persistent and recurrent maladaptive pattern of gambling behaviors that causes substantial distress or impairment. While some people with pathological gambling are able to successfully use integrated treatments, others are not. A number of issues are associated with the etiology of pathological gambling, including the way in which therapeutic procedures are constructed and used. It has been suggested that eclectic theoretic conceptualizations of pathological gambling play a major role in the construction of these treatments, which have shown varying degrees of effectiveness.

In addition to the personal and interpersonal impacts, there are also external societal/community level impacts that may be invisible to gamblers. These impacts are mostly nonmonetary and include a combination of general costs/benefits, costs related to problem gambling, and long term cost/benefits. They can also manifest on the community/societal level in terms of social capital and quality of life impacts.

Research on gambling has been conducted at many different levels, including adolescent and adult samples, clinical populations, and experimental models. The majority of studies have focused on the economic impacts of gambling. However, there are several limitations to this approach. These include a lack of methodological uniformity, the difficulties of measuring the indirect economic costs and benefits of gambling, and the omission of other important considerations.

The most common form of gambling is lotteries, which are state-organized and regulated wagering on random events and other activities, such as sporting events. These are widely available in most countries, and their popularity increased substantially during the late 20th century. The World Lottery Association (WLA) estimates that the total value of all legalized lottery and gaming activities in the world is around $10 trillion per year.

Although most people enjoy gambling as a recreational activity, it can be dangerous for those who are vulnerable. Those who are low income or insecure about their financial situation tend to be more likely to develop a gambling disorder, as do young people and men. Males also begin gambling earlier and are more likely to develop problems with strategic or face-to-face forms of gambling, such as blackjack or poker, whereas women experience difficulty with nonstrategic, less interpersonally interactive types of gambling, such as slots or bingo.

The first step in overcoming gambling addiction is realizing that there is a problem. Once a person admits that they have a problem, they can seek help from their doctor or therapist. There are a variety of treatment options, including psychotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Psychotherapy is a general term for a number of techniques that aim to change unhealthy emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Those who seek help for a gambling addiction are encouraged to strengthen their support network and find healthy ways to spend time, such as joining a sports team or book club, taking a class, or volunteering. In addition, they should seek a sponsor who is a former gambler who has overcome their addiction.