Problem gambling—a Lacanian Real

  • Anita Borch National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO)
Keywords: Problem gambling, addiction, households, the Real


Borch, A. (2015). Problem gambling—a Lacanian Real. The International Journal Of Alcohol And Drug Research, 4(1), 71-76. doi:

The concept of addiction has been criticized for being mainly based on self-reporting in therapeutic and research settings, and that it is functional for people in these settings to report that they are addicted—driven by forces beyond their capacity to control. In this paper, I take this criticism seriously into account and argue that problem gambling belongs to the Lacanian Real, in short, referring to those parts of our existence that might be sensed and even acknowledged, but that never can be wholly grasped. Based on qualitative research of households with reported gambling problems, I argue that neither problem gamblers nor their spouses seem to know why the person gambles and why he or she keeps on gambling even though s/he knows it is damaging. The unknown and incomprehensible aspects of problem gambling (the Real) tend, as part of the gambler’s process of ‘recovering,’ to be repressed and replaced with the concept of addiction. This repression mechanism is observed in other contexts as well, not least in scientific milieux studying gambling, and reflects interests and power in society. Exploring the addiction concept from a critical point of view is necessary to sort truth from myth and make scientific enhancements.

Author Biography

Anita Borch, National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO)
National Institute for Consumer Research (SIFO), Oslo, Norway
How to Cite
Borch, A. (2015). Problem gambling—a Lacanian Real. International Journal of Alcohol and Drug Research, 4(1), 71-76.