Is Your Partner a Narcissistic Gambler – You bet!

Last Updated on April 16, 2021 by Alexander Burgemeester

Pathological addiction to gambling is still very much a hidden phenomenon. A flutter at the race course, dog track, even betting on the outcome of a presidential election or the “X factor” winner is socially acceptable.

The message is, like alcohol, in moderation there is no harm in gambling. Except that the media periodically tells us differently. There are always the guys or gals for whom the “one armed bandits” literally are.

Such people often turn to petty criminality and fraud to feed their habits and eventually they are caught.

Linked to this is another type of socially acceptable gambling – at work. The hotshot who takes unacceptable risks and believes in their own godlike status and while they are lauded when a gamble pays off, when it doesn’t people die and lives are ruined.

Nick Leeson was one such gambler. He was a highly successful futures trader with Baring’s Bank in Singapore. The bank which had traded for more than 200 years, collapsed when Leeson’s speculative trading became known and debts in excess £827M were set against the bank’s assets.

Uncontrolled gambling makes a person dangerous to be around since there is nothing which puts partners and children in the sites of actual physical harm than unmanageable debt which is an inevitable consequence of such behaviour.

Pathological gambling is defined as..

PG is a clinical condition characterized by continual engagement in maladaptive gambling behaviours, even in the face of pernicious personal consequences (American Psychiatric Association, 2000).

Symptoms of PG include preoccupation with gambling, needing to gamble with increasing amounts of money to achieve the desired excitement, unsuccessful efforts to control or reduce gambling, restlessness or irritability when attempting to reduce gambling, lying to conceal gambling involvement, ‘chasing’ losses (i.e., gambling with the explicit purpose of wining back prior losses), and exploiting others or engaging in illegal activities to finance gambling experiences or alleviate gambling-related financial harms.

The reality is that a narcissistic pathological gambler are the most dangerous people to be near. This is because they combine the dangerous traits of narcissism with an addiction which leads inevitably toward debt. If you are in a relationship with one, there is no happy ending.

What turns my narcissistic partner into a pathological gambler?

Unfortunately, narcissists it appears are more likely than most to become pathological gamblers and the fault lies in their decision-making processes. If you are in a relationship with a narcissist you will know that they have certain characteristics which will make them more likely to gamble. These include:

Cognitive Bias: This is a way of thinking and believing about themselves, that somehow, they have power over chance events. Narcissists over estimate they grades in exams. They also appear to think they have more knowledge about an activity than they actually have.

Risk taking behaviours – which could be seen as reckless. Narcissists will always choose the high yield, immediate pay off riskier scenario than the steady, smaller, guaranteed yield.

That they are somehow special in the eyes of a “supreme being” or force which means their fate matters so the bad things can’t happen to them. A notion of invulnerability that the bad things will never catch up with them.

Denial – an ability to deny the truth of a situation.

An ability to externalise problems – It isn’t my fault it is someone or something else being mean to me.

Unfortunately, these are the same characteristics which are replicated in pathological gamblers. Both narcissists and pathological gamblers are over confident. Indeed, a recent study by Lakey et al, suggests that Narcissists make WORSE gambling addicts than non-narcissists:

Accordingly, these results make evident that inflated and imbalanced self-perceptions coupled with a heightened approach orientation toward immediate gratification of desires set the stage for intemperate risk-attitudes and negative outcomes.

Indeed, it seems that narcissists’ self-absorption stemming from their investment in self-view maintenance, and their apparent reactivity to negative self-relevant information (e.g., ‘I’m losing’), leads to relatively inflexible patterns of thoughts and behaviours, which impairs their responding to situational information concerning risk and obscures the recognition and enactment of behavioural strategies to maximize reward while mitigating potential loss

This makes narcissistic people who are also pathological gamblers very dangerous indeed because they will not only lose the shirt of their back, but also the one off yours, your children and anyone else who happens to be within the blast zone.

Because of their ability to deny to themselves what is happening, they are unlikely to be able to put the brakes on their behaviour because like the ostrich, when their head is in the sand the danger does not exist, or so they think.

What can I do if my partner is a Narcissist with pathological tendencies?

If you are not married to them, don’t marry – joint liability for debts is a tricky one but you are always better off not married.

  • Secrete some money or assets away with a friend or family member the he or she can’t get their hands on.
  • Never pay off their debts, because they will do it again and again and again. You have been warned, one friend of mine a teacher on a modest salary in the UK has so far paid of £90k .
  • Don’t believe them when they tell you it won’t happen again and that they are “sorry.

If you don’t believe me then just read the news are a news. Often you will read or hear stories usually of a man who has committed suicide after wiping out his family.

These stories are not limited to any country or culture. Usually the back story emerges detailing a collapsed business empire after risky business deals went South and often where good money had been thrown after bad.

One such example amongst many, happened in 2008 in the English Midlands. Hours after attending a friend’s BBQ, businessman

Christopher Foster who had gambled his family’s future on business investments and lost, gunned down his daughter, dogs, horses and setting light to his home lay down to die of smoke inhalation next to his wife whom he had also shot earlier. They said he did it to spare his wife and child the poverty they faced. The narcissist didn’t ask them first.

Foster’s wife must have seen the signs. If you are suspicious, don’t wait, act.

References used to write:  Is Your Partner a Narcissistic Gambler

  1. Diagnostic and statistical manual of the American Psychiatric Association version IV
  2. CHAD E. LAKEY, PAUL ROSE, W. KEITH CAMPBELL and ADAM S. GOODIE:  Probing the Link between Narcissism and Gambling: The Mediating Role of Judgment and Decision-Making Biases Journal of Behavioural Decision Making J. Behav. Dec. Making, 21: 113–137 (2008) Published online 30 October 2007 in Wiley InterScience
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Alexander Burgemeester

Alexander Burgemeester has a Master in Neuropsychology. He studied at the University of Amsterdam and has a bachelor's in Clinical Psychology. Want to know more?

1 thought on “Is Your Partner a Narcissistic Gambler – You bet!”

  1. You mention the tragic Christopher Foster case. See also the strikingly similar cases of Christian Longo (US) and Chris Hoare (Canada). All three had images tied to ill-gotten money, had features of NPD (or Sociopathy, depending on who is making the assessment), and seemed to be triggered into wife/family murder or attempted murder when their false masks were in danger of slipping and of alienating their spouses/children. In other words, their mirrors were not going to continue reflecting back to them what they wanted. Murder seemed to have been what they considered the solution to this. It is chilling.

    So yes, features of NPD along with involvement in gambling or ill-gotten money (tax evasion, forging checks, shady business deals, etc.) appear to be a very worrisome combination for the spouse and family involved.


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