Signs of an Addictive Personality

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With so many diverse types of addiction disrupting the lives of millions of people, mental health experts and other professionals who treat addiction are working to understand why some people struggle with addiction issues while others remain relatively unaffected.

It appears that the psychological makeup of some individuals plays an important role in certain behaviors that may contribute to problems with drugs, alcohol, and other addictions. These aspects of a person’s temperament may make an individual more susceptible to becoming “hooked" on a behavior or substance and developing an addiction.

Addiction is a complex disease caused by many different variables including individual biochemistry, environmental impact, and personality. Although it is not possible to identify a potential addict from his/her personality, certain psychological characteristics do appear consistently among individuals who suffer from addiction. These personality traits may cause an individual to be more vulnerable to developing an addiction regardless of the form that addiction takes. Persons demonstrating these characteristics may be described as showing signs of an addictive personality.

Personality Factors that Contribute to an Addictive Personality

Individuals showing signs of an addictive personality may be more impulsive than most people. Impulsive behavior can result in a person reacting without thinking through the consequences of their behavior. Understandably, this can get a person in trouble and cause them to take greater risks than they would if they stopped to think things through. Impulsive behavior may lead to a person trying an illicit drug without properly considering the implications, or taking huge financial risks while gambling.

Another common indicator of an addictive personality lies in a person’s difficulty in delaying gratification. An inability to tolerate discomfort or wait for a reward may lead an individual to take matters into their own hands and reward themselves through drugs, alcohol, or other forms of addictive behavior. Individuals with an addictive personality will frequently choose enjoyable short-term activities over stressful long-term goals.

Antisocial personality traits may contribute to self-centred behavior and permit a person to indulge in compulsive activities without considering the consequences to others. This may be aggravated by a sense of social alienation where an individual may believe that they have nothing to lose by participating in anti-social behavior. This sense of social alienation may also be the result of a person’s weak commitment towards achievements usually valued by conventional society. A desire to participate in non-conformist behavior and sensation seeking are two more traits commonly exhibited by individuals with an addictive personality.

A lack of resiliency and a heightened sense of stress are also triggers for persons prone to addictive behavior. Researchers believe that this may help explain why adolescence and other stressful transitional periods in a person’s life may increase the risk of an individual developing an addiction. Individuals with an addictive personality are prone to poor emotional regulation, and may quickly fall back on unhealthy coping strategies such as addictive behavior in order to manage their stress.

Treatment strategies aimed at addressing certain addictive personality traits could offer hope to individuals struggling with addiction. By gaining a better understanding of these signs of an addictive personality, researchers hope to provide more effective interventions to break the destructive patterns of addiction.

Photo by John Nyboer

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