Women with a gambling problem bear a negative social stigma. Based on the theory of symbolic interactionism, this study examined the construction of social identities by 17 Israeli women diagnosed with a gambling disorder. Interpretive interactionist analysis revealed how they construct their identity through correspondence with patterns of behavior that are perceived as normative, and identified 3 major themes: "I'm not actually a gambler" (the presentation of a multidimensional identity comprising other identities besides that of a gambler); "Staying normative during gambling"; and "I have changed" (reformed gamblers' presentation of themselves as having changed for the better). The findings underscore the complex dialogue behind the identity construction put forward by women with a gambling problem, their yearning to be perceived by society as normative women and to fit in despite their stigmatized behavior, and the tension they feel in society's relationship toward them. The findings also suggest that practitioners who work with women gamblers may want to pay attention to the power relations shaping identity construction in an interview setting, and look more closely at the women's awareness of the stigma they bear and the complex processes that make up their multidimensional identity.
- Symbolic interactionism