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What is an Addictive Personality?

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Medically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

An image of a man with an Addictive personality

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

An addictive personality expresses a set of theoretical personality traits that might increase your susceptibility for addiction.

While the term is popular, there is a lack of hard data to substantiate the concept of addictive personality disorder, and there is no clinical diagnosis for this concept either.

What is an addictive personality, then?

Addictive Personality Meaning?

According to the APA (American Psychiatric Association), addiction is a complex and relapsing brain disease. Those impacted by this disease will compulsively use addictive substances in spite of obviously negative outcomes.

If you develop an addiction, you are liable to find the substance takes over all aspects of your life, creating problems in all areas of life. Even as the adverse outcomes of substance abuse mount, you will still be driven to compulsively use substances.

A person with addictive personality can become addicted to any of the following:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Nicotine
  • Prescription painkillers (opioids, benzos)
  • Heroin
  • Stimulants (cocaine, meth)
  • Hallucinogens (PCP, LSD)

There are also process addictions or behavioral addictions, including:

  • Gambling
  • Pornography
  • Internet
  • Shopping
  • Self-harm

Alcoholism (alcohol use disorder) and drug addiction (substance use disorder) are both diagnosed according to the criteria in DSM-5, the fifth and most current edition of the APA’s seminal Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders.

Of the above behavioral addictions, only gambling use disorder is classified as an addiction per DSM-5.

Addiction is a complex condition with many variables underpinning it. These include:

  • Genetics: According to NIDA (the National Institute on Drug Abuse), more than half of your risk profile for developing addiction is genetic. If you have close family members who have experienced alcohol use disorder or substance use disorder, there is a stronger chance you will also face addiction yourself.
  • Dual diagnosis: Many people with addiction have a dual diagnosis, also known as co-occurring disorder. A dual diagnosis occurs if you have an addiction to alcohol or drugs and a co-occurring mental health disorder like anxiety, depression, or PTSD. Mental health issues can play a part in your risk for addiction, while addiction directly impacts your mental health in a vicious dual diagnosis cycle.
  • Early substance use: Increasingly, young people are experimenting with substances. Those who use drink or drugs at a young age are at increased risk of addiction in later life, according to NIH (the National Institutes of Health).
  • EnvironmentEnvironmental factors can also contribute to your chance of developing an addiction. Young people who undergo neglect are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors like substance abuse. Additionally, peer pressure can play a central role in the use of drugs or alcohol.

Psychologists refer to a personality in terms of a series of stable, measurable traits specific to a person.

An image of a woman with an Addictive personality smoking a cigarette

These traits inherent to each individual will influence the way that person relates to themselves and the world around them. As the person develops, these traits – their personality – influence all of the following:

  • Emotion
  • Thinking
  • Motivation
  • Behaviors

According to the five-factor model of personality, these are the core areas of personality:

  • Openness to new experiences (whether someone is curious or cautious)
  • Extraversion (whether someone is outgoing or solitary)
  • Neuroticism (whether someone is nervous or secure)
  • Conscientiousness (whether someone is organized or careless)
  • Agreeableness (whether someone is detached or friendly)

Researchers discovered that people with high levels of neuroticism are more likely to develop addictive behaviors. It is believed that the brains of these people are more easily emotionally aroused than the brains of people who are not highly neurotic.

Signs of an Addictive Personality

Psychology Today describes an addictive personality as one in which the individual is unable to control their participation in substance use, alcohol consumption, or engaging in gambling or sex. This accounts for perhaps 10% of the US population, according to the same source.

Although researchers have reported some personality traits common to those with addictions, this does not necessarily mean there is an addictive personality.

Every addiction is different, and not everyone with those character traits common to addiction becomes addicted to behaviors or substances. Sometimes, the personality traits are characteristic of other disorders without addiction ever being present.

How, then, can you establish whether or not you may have an addictive personality?

Do I Have An Addictive Personality?

If you exhibit any of the following characteristics, you could be at increased risk of developing an addiction:

  • Obsessiveness: If you are dominated by obsessions, you may feel the need to repeat certain actions again and again. While engaging in obsessions is not intrinsically bad, problems often ensue if they are taken to excess, especially when the obsessions extend to the use of addictive substances. Those who struggle with obsessions are more likely to develop substance use disorders.
  • Lack of self-regulation: If you are unable to control your emotions, feelings, and behavior, you will be unable to regulate yourself effectively. Research indicates that people who lack self-regulation are more susceptible to addiction.
  • Impulsiveness: People who act on impulse without considering the long-term consequences are more prone to substance abuse.
  • Risk taking: According to the NIH (National Institutes of Health), there is a correlation between risk-taking behavior and substance abuse.
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Overcome Addiction at Renaissance Recovery

Although there are many different personality traits that can be correlated with substance abuse, there is no scientific consensus on the existence or otherwise of an addictive personality.

Regardless of its cause, though, 40 million people in the US have substance use disorder and 28.5 million have alcohol use disorder, according to recent SAMHSA data.

If you or a loved one are grappling with addiction, we can help you kickstart your recovery here at Renaissance. We specialize in the outpatient treatment of the following:

  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Mental health disorders
  • Co-occurring disorders

In addition to standard outpatient programs (OPs), we also offer intensive outpatient programs (IOPs), partial hospitalization programs (PHPs), and remote outpatient programs (virtual IOPs).

Through evidence-based treatments like medication-assisted treatment, psychotherapy, and counseling, you’ll discover how to avoid the triggers that caused you to use substances through utilizing healthy coping mechanisms. You’ll also have access to holistic therapies for a rounded and whole-body approach to addiction recovery.

To get your recovery started, reach out to admissions today at 866.330.9449.

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Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country