What is an Addictive Personality?

Written by Michelle Rosenker

Recovering addicts and alcoholics can attest to the fact that a major part of their active addiction was rooted in certain personality traits such as poor impulse control or a negative sense of self-worth. But does that mean that all addicts and alcoholics have what is known as an “addictive personality”?

There are many outlets that will state that addictive personalities are the root cause of the development of active addiction, whether it be an addiction to drugs or alcohol or sex or gambling and so on. But, the idea of an addictive personality is just that — an idea. There is no defining criteria for specific traits that have proven to cause addiction in individuals. The traits that are often discussed as part of an addictive personality are really just factors that can increase one’s risk for developing an addiction of some kind.

man with addictive personality

Can a Person Truly Have an Addictive Personality?

Most addiction professionals agree that an addictive personality does not exist, rather there are certain factors that can make a person more likely to abuse drugs and/or alcohol in the future. Research has even proven that there does not exist traits that are shared by all addicts and alcoholics, meaning that the idea of an addictive personality would be inapplicable. To be clear, personality traits are habitual patterns of behaving, thinking, and feeling that are not tied to any type of disease or disorder. Someone with an active addiction is behaving in a certain way due to the physical changes that are occurring in their brains and bodies. 

It is completely understandable for people to think that addictive personalities are legitimate, especially when all we can see in terms of addiction are the behaviors, not the disease actually occurring in the brain. But, there are, as previously mentioned, specific factors that can aid in the development of the disease of addiction:

Impulse control problems

Impulse control can cause people to make rash decisions with little to no forethought about the outcome of those decisions. It is also common for individuals with poor impulse control to have no concern about how drugs, alcohol, gambling, etc. have on their physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. 

High stress

Everyone experiences stress to some degree, but some individuals have a close relationship (albeit a negative one) with high levels of stress. Their stress can come from the type of work they do, their own mental health, and their living environment, to name a few. The consistency of high levels of stress can erode at a person’s resolve to the point where they look to self-medicate their stress, typically through negative behaviors like substance abuse.

Poor self-worth

Having poor self-worth can affect every aspect of one’s life, and negatively at that. Abusing drugs or alcohol can be an easy go-to for someone who does not value him or herself, as using can give them a false sense of importance and confidence. However, when the high is over, those poor feelings of self-worth return and can be more intense. This cycle can continue over and over again.

Few or no long-term goals

Individuals can struggle with focusing on their goals long enough to stay on track to accomplish them. That, or they are clouded in confusion about what he or she truly wants from life and struggles with that uncertainty. To bring ease to this burden, drinking and/or using drugs can become a regular activity. 

Social withdrawal

Social withdrawal  is one of the most common factors found in those experiencing addiction, as individuals tend to turn inwards as a result of high stress, poor self-worth, and other debilitating issues. Isolating from others can fuel the development of addiction, as the loneliness and pain that comes from that isolation can feel too overwhelming to manage. 

While some outlets will describe these as traits of an addictive personality, they are, instead, factors that can contribute to the development of addiction in some individuals.

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How Do I Know If I Have an Obsessive Personality?

An obsessive personality is similar to an addictive personality in that there really is no such thing. Like people who have an addiction, someone with an obsessive disorder has elements that can aid in the progression of their disorder, as well as symptoms that go along with the disorder. 

The factors that are commonly found in those who develop and obsessive disorder can include the following:

  • High levels of stress
  • Living in a chaotic environment
  • Family history of obsessive-compulsive disorder 
  • Experiencing one or more traumatic event

Just because someone has these risk factors does not mean that he or she will develop an obsessive disorder. Like the development of addiction, several other elements come into play when an obsessive disorder presents itself. People can have traits that are shared with individuals with an obsessive disorder but do not have an obsessive disorder themselves. 

What is an Addictive Behavior?

An addictive behavior is defined as a behavior that “has become the major focus of a person’s life to the exclusion of other activities, or that has begun to harm the individual or others physically, mentally, or socially.” The trouble with addictive behaviors is that they are continual despite the consequences that they cause or can cause. And, because they are behaviors, it makes it extremely difficult for those around the addicted individual to understand why he or she cannot “just stop” drinking, using drugs, gambling, etc. The addictive behaviors are merely symptoms of the disease of addiction.

What are Some Examples of Addictive Behaviors?

The kind of addictive behaviors that a person can display are indicative of the type of addiction they are experiencing. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, there exist several different addictive behaviors that a person exhibits, including, but not limited to, the following:

  • Making attempts to stop drinking or using but being unsuccessful in doing so
  • Being unable to control the amount of alcohol/drugs that they consume
  • Continuing to use despite negative consequences that have occurred or can occur as a result of the use
  • Using even though they do not want to

When addictive behaviors continue to occur, both the individual and those around him or her suffer in several different ways. From the emotional toll that the addictive behaviors play to the physical and mental stress they put on everyone involved, these behaviors can lead to nothing but a dead end. Thankfully, the disease of addiction and the addictive behaviors that develop because of it can be professionally treated and managed

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If you are struggling with an addiction, know that you do not need to stay stuck in a deadly pattern of abuse. We invite you to reach out to us right now to start building the support you need to stop using and start living.

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