Staying in action: The pathological gambler's equivalent of the dry drunk


  • Richard J. Rosenthal



pathological gambler, treatment of pathological gambling, action, staying in action, covert gambling, mind bets, risk-taking, behavioral equivalents.


Alcoholics Anonymous refers to the alcoholic who has stopped drinking, but who still demonstrates alcoholic attitudes and behaviors, as a "dry drunk." Such individuals are said to have abstinence but not sobriety. They are considered at risk for relapse. Although the concept of the dry drunk has been adopted by other self-help programs, "staying in action" is an equivalent and arguably more meaningful expression to use for the understanding and treatment of many pathological gamblers. The author discusses covert gambling, mind bets, switching and fusing of addictions, procrastination, risk-taking, and power games; a repertoire of ways in which the individual can remain in a gambling mind-set while technically abstinent. This is a clinical paper, based on the author's experience, especially in treating the more traditional, action-seeking gamblers. Vignettes are utilized to illustrate various behaviors and states of mind. The emphasis is on their identification and on the need for the therapist to confront these behaviors and attitudes before they lead to relapse.