Is There Such a Thing as an Addictive Personality?


The addictive personality carries a lot of weight in popular culture. The addictive personality, so goes the notion, is a individual characteristic that predisposes some people to becoming addicts or that predisposes them to abuse drugs or a behavior.

In reality, an addictive personality is not currently a scientifically proven trait. We say it colloquially; many of us believe that we are more prone to developing behavioral or substance addictions than others, but there is no tangible evidence to indicate whether this is true or not.

Disease Model of Addiction

The debate actually gets interesting with regard to an addictive personality when we consider the disease model of addiction. The disease model of addiction argues that addiction is just like any other chronic disease. When taken this way, and based on the discoveries of several inherited genes that predispose people to other diseases including cancer, the logical next step is to say that as a disease, perhaps addiction is somewhere in the genetic code, and we are either born with the predisposition or we are not.

But even this wouldn't be enough to answer the question because there is always the issue of how environmental factors influence behaviors. This is especially relevant in light of the fact that many addictions are behavioral-based—addictions to gambling, shopping, sex, eating etc.

Biology or Environment?

Is there then a biological basis for an addictive personality, or an environmental one? The answer is likely that it is some combination of both. The science of psychology is too intricate to draw such a straight line.

There may come a time when genetics can address the question of the addictive personality with some scientific certainty, but it seems doubtful that such a gene would render all carriers predisposed to addiction.


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