0 items - $0.00
Lanie's Hope

Dostoevsky: A Compulsive Gambler

Dostoevsky recorded his struggles with Gambling Addiction in the 1800’s, yet the American Psychiatric Association did not recognize this addiction until 1980.

Today The American Psychiatic Association recognizes the disease of
Disordered Gambling as a treatable mental health disorder.


Fyodor Dostoevsky famously wrote “The Gambler” , published in 1867.  Obviously not a work of complete fiction, Dostoevsky notably had first-hand experience as a gambling addict.

In a letter to his beloved Anya, Dostoevsky asks her to

“Remember too that I’m not a scoundrel, just a passionate gambler.”

Certainly one can surmise that with the expanded availability of gambling (now legal in 48  states), the incidence of problem or “disordered gambling” is likely to have increased commensurately.  It has been well-documented that gambling has been around  since ancient times. It would also seem, based on Dostoevsky’s letter to his wife, that gambling addiction has existed through the ages.

Get a glimpse of the mind of a compulsive gambler in   Dostoevsky’s letter to Ayna Dostoevsky_Letter




  1. KENNETH GAUGHRANJuly 16, 2013 at 2:22 pmReply

    As a recovering compulsive gambler and addictions counselor and
    periodic author on addiction issues, I give you tremendous credit for making light of Dostoevsky’s gambling problem. I first came
    across Dostoevsky’s gambling addiction when I read either book
    21 or book 22 of Sigmund Freuds complete works,entitled:
    “Dostoevsky and Parricide”. Freud not only was a contemporary of
    Freud,but friend and patient as well. Freud believed the reason
    Dostoevsy’s gambled until he was peniless, was the result of what
    he called:Dostoevsky’s “failed oedipal strivings”. In other words
    Freud rationalized that(like all men)Fydor subconsciously yearned
    to sleep with his mother and the only way that could happen if
    he first murdered his father. Consequently Freud believed that
    on a unconscous and maybe even conscious level that Dostoevsly
    was consumed with guilt about this. Therefore,to relieve or extinquish his guilt he deepdown wanted to lose(and did) and upon losing all his money Fydor would feel a brief rush of feeling cleansed.
    What can we take from Freud’s theory of Dostoevsky’s compulsive
    gambling? Personally, I can take two important issues from Freud on gambling. Firstly,as some one who buys into Freudian
    Ego Systems View: I as a gambler always had lingering feelings of guilt when I was gambling and their was never any
    question that I unconsciously wanted to lose. However,I do believe
    my guilt was related to familial moral issues- that were based more
    on the fact: I felt gambling was going against the grain of my family’s Protestant Work Ethic and not on any strivings having to do with sex. Secondly,having said all that I strongly believe that
    my 31 years of gambling could be labeled as a “sexual substitution”;the feelings I had when my horse was making a
    big move on the far turn,was often better than sex-with the dopamine engorging my frontal lobes and the nitric oxide flowing
    through my veins it was similiar to someone experiencing a orgasm. Strangely,enough I often felt very disconnected
    and guilty after a big win and I think that was the result of policing
    mechanisms in my brain judging my behavior based on earlier
    ethical templates(or the old stem views) Moreover, I buy into
    Freud’s guilt connection because how else do you explain: that
    after I blew out(went broke after a gambling binge) I would often
    feel like I experienced a epiphany
    Finally, with the use of fuctional MRIs we know that sexual addiction and pathological gambling are on the same continum.
    However,eleven years clean I have gotten rid of the gambling,
    but I still have the guilt-strangely enough I think this is more of
    a “maslowian problem of not getting enough sex”

    Ken Gaughran

  2. Kenneth GaughranJuly 17, 2013 at 9:29 amReply

    To whom it may concern,

    My blog on Dostoevsky’s gambling problem and Freud’analysis of
    such is erroneous in that Freud and Dostoevsky never met. Even
    though they were alive at the same time,Freud never met with him
    and did “psychoanalysis by proxy” on Dostoevsky’s abundent literature in his piece in 1928,entitled:”Dostoevsky and Parricide”. Since I wrote about this in 1986,while at NYU,you can understand
    the error…God bless,Ken Gaughran

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


A Compelling and Passionate Speaker
Bea Aikens couples her personal experience with extensive knowledge of the disease of compulsive gambling to build a compelling platform for civic, community and national organizations seeking knowledge and understanding of the disease of disordered gambling. To engage Bea for your upcoming event, contact her at
Contact Info
Lanie's Hope
P.O. Box 60214
Boulder City, NV 89006
Follow Us