Addiction and Addictive Personality

A person with an addictive personality is more likely to develop an addiction to something. When thinking of addiction many people conjure up images of hopeless drug addicts with no prospects, but the reality is that anyone can develop an addiction.

People can become addicted to many things, some of the most common addictions are:

  • Gambling
  • Drugs (illegal or prescription)
  • Alcohol
  • Shopping
  • Sexual intercourse
  • Video games
  • Smoking
  • Food
  • Pornography

What causes an addictive personality?

When you do something that brings you pleasure, your brain releases a “feel-good hormone” called dopamine.

This rewarding feeling makes the act that caused it much more appealing and is part of the reason people repeat certain behaviours.

Some studies have shown that naturally occurring dopamine levels are lower in people who are addicted to certain drugs, as the synthetic dopamine from the drug overtakes the body’s natural ability to produce it (1).

There isn’t one specific cause of an addictive personality, however, some studies show that certain personality types are more prone to developing an addiction. For example, people who are neurotic and impulsive are at a higher risk of developing an addiction than others (2).

Certain addictions also have environmental causes. For example, if you frequently spend time around people who drink a lot of alcohol or do lots of drugs, you are at a higher risk of developing addictions to those substances.

While addiction is a mental health condition itself, studies have shown that people who suffer from addictions also have co-occurring mental health disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia (3).

Is an addictive personality genetic?

The link between genetics and addictive personality traits is rather complex and more studies need to be done to further understand the relationship between the two, however, research shows that there most likely is a link – albeit a small one (4).

A person born to parents with a physical or behavioural addiction has a slightly higher risk of developing an addiction themselves.

Additionally, mental health issues can be passed down from a parent to a child and as previously discussed in this article, people with certain mental health issues are more at risk of having an addictive personality.

Signs of an addictive personality

An addictive personality can present itself in various ways. It may seem easy to be able to tell when a person is addicted to something, however, many people are able to hide their addictions or may not even recognise that they have an addiction.

The signs will be different depending on what the addiction is, but some of the main signs to looks out for are:

  • Gambling – this goes beyond just doing the lottery. A person who is addicted to gambling will be visiting bookmakers often and most likely gambling online.
  • Frequent money troubles but occasionally having an excess of money
  • Excessive drinking – not being able to stop at one or two drinks, drinking alone, or missing work or school due to being ill due to drinking to excess
  • Excessive substance use
  • Continuing to drink excessively or use substances despite knowing they are having a negative impact on your life
  • Overeating or binge eating
  • Over-spending – a person with a shopping addiction might have multiple credit cards and store cards
  • Engaging in risky sexual behaviour
  • Having many sexual partners, particularly in a short space of time
  • Refusing to partake in social activities in favour of playing video games or browsing the internet
  • Constantly checking your phone
  • Never feeling satisfied

If you recognise any of these signs in you or someone else, it is advisable to contact a healthcare professional to arrange counselling or therapy to overcome these issues.

Risk factors of developing an addiction

Certain personality traits can be an indicator that a person has a higher-than-normal risk of developing an addiction. These are:

  • Frequent risk-taking
  • Overly adventurous behaviour
  • Seemingly disconnected from society
  • Overly cautious
  • Compulsive or obsessive over minimal things
  • Uninterested in socialising
  • Already suffering from another mental health condition
  • From a family in which family members have a mental health condition or have an addictive personality

The main issue surrounding an addictive personality seems to be an inability to self-regulate.

Ordinarily, a person will be able to go into a shop and not buy anything – but someone with an addiction to shopping will buy things they do not want or need just to feel a rush.

When a person is unable to self-regulate, they tend to overdo things in search of the rewarding feeling that it gives them.

Unfortunately, however, many people with an addictive personality will not feel satisfied by the rush, making them feel that they need to push harder in order to feel pleasure from their actions. This can cause the addiction to spiral out of control and can make it more difficult to overcome.

Getting help for addictive personality disorder

If you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction, it is best to get help sooner rather than later. It might be an uncomfortable subject to approach, but the longer an addiction continues the more difficult it is to beat.

Treatment will differ depending on the type of addiction you have. You may be referred for cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to change the way you approach your thoughts and feelings, or you may need to undergo a detox and rehabilitation program if your addiction is to harmful substances.

For other addictions that are less severe, it may be possible to overcome it yourself. If you find that you are addicted to your smartphone, you could set yourself a time limit to use it or lock it away during certain hours.

If you find that you overeat processed foods, you could only buy healthy foods so that your snacking is not negatively impacting your health. If your addiction is to video games, you could postpone playing by taking a long walk or a relaxing bath instead.

It is also a good idea to talk to someone you trust about your addiction. They might have already suspected that you have an addiction and did not know how to help you.

Having the support of someone will make overcoming your addiction easier on you and will give you someone to talk to on your most difficult days.