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Rosenthal, R.J. (2015). Masochism and Pathological Gambling. Psychodyn. Psych., 43(1):1-25.

(2015). Psychodynamic Psychiatry, 43(1):1-25

Masochism and Pathological Gambling Related Papers

Richard J. Rosenthal, M.D.

That all pathological gamblers have an “unconscious wish to lose,” an idea first expressed by Freud and Bergler, is neither true nor useful; wrong as well, however, are the reasons for neglecting masochism in relation to gambling. There is a small but clinically significant subgroup of pathological gamblers who are masochistic. I present clinical vignettes and a more extended treatment account to illustrate its importance. Masochism has been a confusing concept. As used here it refers to the deliberate seeking of pain, loss, suffering, or humiliation. There may be pleasure in pain, or an obligatory combining of pleasure and pain. A sense of power and control may be achieved through suffering. The case material illustrates clinically useful types (sexual masochism, masochistic personality disorder, moral masochism, relational masochism) as well as some common masochistic dynamics encountered in the treatment of pathological gamblers. These masochistic patterns are often identifiable during the initial evaluation. Distinguishing features may include a reversal of normal attitudes about winning and losing, the absence of an early winning phase, sometimes a memorable early loss. Gamblers may sabotage opportunities for success or create unnecessary obstacles for themselves. Losing may be more comfortable than winning or may be overtly sexualized.

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