Table of Contents
- What is an Addictive Personality?
- What does an Addictive Personality Look Like?
- Signs of Addictive Personality Disorder
- Factors Which Contribute to Addictive Personality Disorder
What is an Addictive Personality?
“Addictive Personality” is a loaded phrase that’s thrown around in various contexts – often without an understanding of its actual definition and implications. So, what does an addictive personality actually mean – and how can one know if they possess it?
An addictive personality disorder is defined as when an individual possesses a specific set of personality traits which make him/ her more predisposed to developing an addiction than the average person. Having an addictive personality disorder does not diagnose a person as an addict – rather, it means they possess a collection of traits which commonly manifest themselves in addicts and may eventually lead to addiction. A person may possess all of the criteria for an addictive personality and never become an addict, and another may not possess many obsessive traits and still ultimately succumb to addiction.
Bear in mind that addiction is a broad term that is used not only in reference to substance (drug and alcohol) abuse, but to any form of compulsive behavior – such as eating, shopping, gambling, browsing the internet, watching TV or playing video games, to list a few. 1
What does an Addictive Personality Look Like?
An addictive personality would exhibit itself as a person who has a very hard time not getting stuck on things that give them pleasure – someone who typically latches onto specific people, ideas, behaviors, pursuits, or even substances. For example, most people will go into a clothing store and purchase the one or two items they need or have long wanted, and no more. A person with an addictive personality will compulsively purchase even when they have no real need, and even when they lack the funds to support their habit. The average person can go to a restaurant or party and have one drink, and then not touch alcohol for a month or more. One with an addictive personality will return for another 5 glasses because they so enjoy the feeling the first one gave them. Someone with an addictive personality will compulsively watch TV shows they love, browse the web, eat, exercise, experiment with drugs, or buy lottery tickets – in short, continuously fixate on and pursue whatever it is that gives them pleasure. They lack the ability to control or stop their actions.
Signs of Addictive Personality Disorder
There is a variety of telltale signs which commonly manifest themselves in those with an addictive personality disorder. When noticed in an individual, they do not constitute a definite diagnosis but a likelihood that the person possesses an addictive personality. Such signs include:
- Obsessing – Much like an addict obsesses over his substance of choice and when he can get his next fix, one with an addictive personality will often fixate (whether in action, thought or speech) over whatever it is that gives them pleasure.
- Wanting more – A person with an addictive personality can never possibly get enough of their passion – be it clothes, poker, or aged steaks, they always need more. They can never reach their saturation point.
- Lying – In order to justify, conceal and continue their problematic behaviors, someone with an addictive personality will feel compelled to lie both to themselves and others. This creates a situation which is neither positive nor sustainable.
- Persisting Despite Negative Outcomes – For one with an addictive personality, the pleasure which their compulsive behavior affords them takes precedence over all else. Their actions might cause them to lose precious relationships, go into debt, fail in school, or land in trouble with the law – yet they will persist in their self-destructive behaviors.
- Impulsive Behavior – Addictive personality disorder is commonly characterized by rash and impetuous behavior. Such a person does not give thought or consideration to the possible ramifications of their actions.
- Not Taking Responsibility – Much like an addict who finds ways to blame his addiction on everything and everyone but himself, those with an addictive personality often have difficulty with accountability and taking basic responsibility for the impact of their actions.
- Revolving Relationships – One of the tragic results of an addiction is the trail of destroyed relationships it so often leaves in its wake. Similarly, a person suffering from addictive personality disorder will struggle with remaining in relationships due to the negative and alienating behaviors they engage in.
- Secrecy – Much like the abovementioned “Lying”, one with an addictive personality disorder will be forced to conceal many of their actions from the people in their life in order to continue pursuing the object of their passions, unhindered.2 3
Factors Which Contribute to Addictive Personality Disorder
Although an Addictive Personality Disorder can affect anyone, there are specific factors which may contribute to the likelihood of one developing an addictive personality disorder. Below are some examples.
- Genes/ Heredity
It is unanimously agreed that genes and heredity are large components of addiction and addictive personality disorders. Through various studies and cases – such as children born to addictive parents but then adopted by non-addictive families – scientists have determined that genes account for approximately half the likelihood of one developing an addiction. If one has family members suffering from addiction, they are very likely to develop an addictive personality disorder.
Genes aside, one’s environment is another factor which greatly influences their susceptibility to addictive personality disorder. One’s school, circle of friends, neighborhood and so on all greatly impact their personality. One who grows up surrounded by drugs and alcohol is highly likely to develop an addiction to it later on; conversely, one cannot possibly become addicted to a substance (or anything, for that matter) if they were never exposed to it.
- Mental Health Disorders
Suffering from one or more mental health disorder – such as anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, and the like – greatly increases the chance of one developing an addictive personality. Such individuals are very likely to seek out behaviors and/ or substances which temporarily relieve the discomfort caused by these conditions, and will compulsively pursue them once they experience their sedative effects.
- Inability to Regulate
Some people naturally struggle with processing, expressing, and controlling emotions and/ or behaviors in a healthy manner. This may manifest itself as intense, unpredictable mood swings and inappropriate reactions to mundane experiences/ challenges. An individual who is challenged with self – regulation and impulse control may very likely struggle with curbing addictive behavioral patterns as well.
- Impulsive, Risk – Loving Trait
Individuals who love risk-taking and thrill-seeking, constantly chasing that adrenaline rush through new and dangerous experiences, may also be more at risk of developing an addictive personality disorder. Their nature may result from naturally high brain dopamine levels, which leaves them less sensitive to its effects and in need of continuously more intense experiences in order to feel any pleasure. This need may lead them to begin experimenting with addictive substances later on in life.
- Cautious, Disconnected Trait
On the other end of the spectrum we find those who are unusually wary, cautious, and disconnected. This trait is commonly found in those who suffer from anxiety, depression, and the like, as they naturally withdraw from their surroundings out of fear of social interactions and relationships. Such people will often latch onto a pleasurable behavior or substance in order to alleviate the loneliness and pain that their self – isolation brings.
- Obsessive, Compulsive Trait
Lastly, one who grapples with obsessive and compulsive thoughts and behaviors in general is understandably at an increased risk of developing an addictive personality disorder. Interestingly, this may not only present itself as an inability to regulate impulses, but conversely as an over-rigidity in quashing and controlling impulses. A rigid, intensely focused person who habitually repeats specific behaviors is as vulnerable to addictive personality disorder as an impulsive, impetuous person. Whenever an individual displays a lack of flexibility in their thoughts and behaviors, they are displaying an obsessive-compulsive behavioral pattern and are more likely to suffer from an addictive personality disorder. 4 5 6
An addictive personality should never be taken as a positive diagnosis of addiction, but a red flag to underlying issues that can hopefully be dealt with and neutralized with appropriate intervention. Some even feel that the term causes more harm than good due to the shame and stigma it can bring upon already-vulnerable individuals… If you feel you or a loved one may possess an addictive personality disorder, remember it is not a diagnosis and seek appropriate help so your issue can be safely laid to rest before it causes any real harm.