Addictive Personality

What Does it Mean to Have an Addictive Personality?

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In an article in Scientific American written by author Maia Szalavtz, she defines our question as to the myth that it is. She says, “Even when we joke about having an addictive personality it’s usually to justify an indulgence or to signal our guilt about pleasure, even if only ironically.” An addictive personality, some may think, is a person who is more susceptible to developing a drug addiction based on a few character traits that border on obsessing, codependency, impulsivity, and risk-taking. However, many professionals consider there to be no one type of addictive personality. As George Koob, director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, says, “What we are finding is that the addictive personality…is multifaceted. It doesn’t really exist as an entity of its own.”

What is an Addictive Personality?

The notion of having an addictive personality exists in popular culture as an image that describes a person who is obsessive or guilty of indulging. It is believed to be an indicator in the person who possesses certain characteristics that make him/her destined to become an addict to something. Although the development of addiction is complex and has various contributing factors, having an “addictive personality” is a mix of truth and skepticism.

There is no single personality type that is more prone to develop an addiction than others. There are signs of having an addiction that goes beyond personality traits, as the signs of an addiction are starkly along these lines:

Signs of Addiction:

  • Always wanting and needing more
  • Continuation of the behavior no matter the consequences
  • Not being able to stop
  • Interferes with functioning in daily life
  • Obsession and secrecy

There are, however, a variety of personality traits that exist confluently and can be predictors of drug abuse and alcoholism. There is just not in actuality anything that proves there is a single type of personality that is addiction-prone. There are other high-risk traits that can exist in any individual that are a cause for questioning whether addiction is more likely to develop. There may even be a stark difference between addictive personality and character traits that predispose drug addiction.

These traits may be:

  • Family relations who have addictions
  • Mental health disorders
  • Risk-taking and impulsivity
  • Inability to self regulate
  • Demonstrates a lack of self-control
  • Obsessive-compulsive
  • Disconnected and antisocial

Do I Have an Addictive Personality?

Do you have a difficult time self-regulating? Is your need for reward strong? Do you know your limits and have had accurate insight as to what those are? Are you able to track the quantity of your use and of any repetitive, dependent behavior?

If you are wondering, “Do I have an addictive personality?” look to see if you have insight about yourself for the warning signs of real addiction. Remember that it does not necessarily mean you will be an addict, as there is no character trait that is a single predictor. Be aware of some of these high-risk indicators and whether they exist for you prominently:

  1. Do you know a family member that has been modeling an addiction to you since childhood?
  2. Do you have a history or are currently experiencing a mental health disorder, namely Depression, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Schizophrenia, or Antisocial Personality Disorder?
  3. Do you tend to lean towards a quick fix and engage in any type of self-medicating when you experience difficulty facing an underlying problem? 
  4. Have you engaged in the substance use of nicotine or alcohol socially, alone, or when feeling stressed?
  5. What are your main coping methods when you experience distress?

Personality Traits Linked to Addiction

There are other personality types that can lean toward proneness to addiction. An adventurous and risk-taking personality trait may demonstrate that person as having limited impulse control and seeking out risky and dangerous experiences. They can be more likely to try drugs. A disconnected, rigid, or antisocial personality type can seem to be the opposite of the former type mentioned but can be just as susceptible to engaging in substance use. Difficult times in social relationships are a hallmark of this type, as well as the likelihood of depression, anxiety, and isolative tendencies because the person is more likely to want to mask these feelings by self-medicating.

Obsessive-compulsive traits have to do with how someone controls their impulses, even those people who are rigid and overcontrolled or over-controlling. In the presence of ensuing anxiety, stress, and agitation, they may be looking for a way to manage it all. They may swing on the extreme side of a personality and are prone to develop a compulsion as opposed to safer experimentation or single-use.

Another factor in addiction that may exist in the personality is the need for reward and its strength. The feeling that they are never receiving enough of a reward and build up a tolerance to things they once enjoyed or gave them pleasure, needing more and more. While no addictive personality exists, there are addictive traits that a person can experience.

Some of these are:

  • Impulsivity, with little thought of outcome and consequences
  • Sensation seeking, with lots of need and spontaneous actions.
  • Negative affect, reacting to stressors with unpleasant emotions
  • Neuroticism, who often respond to situations with anger, sadness, and anxiety
  • Aggression, high hostility, and violent proneness.

Can You Be Addicted to a Person?

Along with the problems of drug use, it’s important to distinguish if that type of addiction can exist in relation to another person. There are indicators that yes, a person can be addicted to another person. There are healthy delineations within relationships as well as those that lie alongside unhealthy codependency and a host of negative emotions. The most unhealthy extreme can manifest into love and sex addiction and codependency.

Signs you may be unhealthily addicted to a person include:

  • Obsession and dreaming about them constantly
  • Feelings of incompleteness, emptiness, despair
  • Sadness and longing
  • Anxiety and a continual sense of drama
  • Afraid to be alone or without that person
  • More obsessive attention is given to the partner than to oneself

Involvement in bad relationships while being addicted to that person can lead to alcohol and drug abuse and even physical illness and suicide.

Getting Treatment for Addiction in the San Francisco Bay Area

So, if you ask yourself, “Do I have an addictive personality?” or wonder “Can you be addicted to a person?” it’s important to distinguish the extremes of what indicates addiction and whether you tend to lean on extremes in your behavior. If you tend to obsess over things in life or about another person, insight and self-awareness are always going to be helpful. Know that an addictive personality can never be reducible to one stereotype. We can learn, however, that addiction is complex and dependent on multiple factors. 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, call 408-547-4089 and a care coordinator from the Silicon Valley Recovery team will be happy to answer questions and talk about options for treatment.