Addictive personality

March 17, 2022

People may be treated for alcoholism or addiction, but that does not mean they are cured from the illness. Addiction is a chronic illness with high rates of relapse. What depressing words to read for any addict in search for some hope in being fully recovered from this tormenting disease! Yet, recovery is not a fruitlessly futile effort if one realizes that deep within the addict is an addictive personality at work, which can be treated and accepted with care and love.

An addictive personality are character traits that predisposes one to addiction. It was there well before the addiction and could be cause for the development of active addiction. The good news is that addicts are not responsible for their addictive behaviors as it was a part of their natural makeup, but in recovery, have the responsibility to make use of the tools that can help them cope with the erratic, impulsive, and excitable nature of this type of personality. As fatalistic as all of this sounds, with early recognition, intervention, and acceptance; many are capable of living healthy and productive lives often due to this quirky characteristic.

Addictive VS Non-Addictive Personalities

Often times addicts will compare themselves to the so-called “lucky” ones who have been spared the strife of having an addictive personality. Many alcoholics are perplexed by how some people drink alcohol and stop short of 1 or 2 glasses with their dinner, without any puzzling consequence. Yet, when they drink, all hell breaks lose! A meagre sip of alcohol generates a craving that lasts up to a lifetime of suffering with devastating effects on family, friends, and life in general. This difference is due to the preexisting personalities in question. Hence, some people have all the luck and are spared from addictive consequences to their behaviors, whilst for us addicts; we are predisposed to a dangerous life due to the following factors: [1]

1)     Genetics – The Minnesota Twin study showed high rates of heritability being a factor towards having the same or different addictions. For example, if one twin was addicted to cocaine, there was a high likelihood of the other developing opiate dependency.

2)     Neurotransmitters – Abnormalities in the in various neuro-transmitters such as dopamine and endorphins lead addicts to seek ways or means to heighten its input through either chemical dependency or acting out in various addictive behaviors such as sex, overeating, gambling, and over-exercising.

3)     Heightened stress – The world can be a very overwhelming place to live in. Some people are equipped emotionally to deal with the stresses and challenges that are dished out on a daily basis; whilst it leaves others in a total wreck. The latter are more likely to be vulnerable to addiction.

4)     Lack of coping skills – Even those who are sensitive to heightened stress will be spared from addictive behavior should they have a coping mechanism that is healthy such as a nurturing home environment. Nevertheless, there are those who lack any coping skills whatsoever, hence look to addiction as a way out of the pain.

5)     Environment – If one lives in a hostile environment, chances are an addictive personality will be helpful for survival. Such environments will include who one’s family and friends are as well as the nature of such relationships in either building or destroying one’s character.

Traits of an addictive personality

Having any traits of the addictive personality does not necessarily mean that one is going to be an addict. However, it is suggested to be watchful and mindful when dealing with addictive substances and behaviors. Below are listed the various traits of such a personality:

a)     Impulsivity: Doing things on impulse means not thinking things through prior to doing it. For example, a person who has sex with whosesoever he wishes at any time has performed an impulsive act. There is no thought for consequence and only in seeking pleasure for the moment.

b)     Rebellious: Addicts are anything but conformists. There is a need to do things our own way. We seek means and ways to rebel against normality because it seems to be unfulfilling. Hence, being rebellious is the hallmark of an addictive personality. For example, if you value less the goals which are accepted by society at large, chances are this personality could lead one to active addiction.

c)     Thrill-seeking: Seeking the next high is an addictive trait. If one finds him/herself looking for newer and better ways of seeking a high, be it in conversation, physical activity, travelling, etc., there is a likelihood of developing an addictive personality.

d)     Isolative: All of these traits point to a kind of difference, which will make one self-conscious. Hence, if given a choice, addicts will choose their own company over other people’s. This makes being isolated a part of the addictive personality.

e)     Compulsivity: Doing things compulsively means doing them repeatedly and exponentially greater than the previous attempt. For example, if an alcoholic drinks two bottles of vodka in a day, there’s a great chance of drinking ten bottles a day, by the end of the month. If you or your loved one notices compulsive behavior, it is probably best to stave from addictive behavior and or substances.

f)      More: Addiction is the disease of “more”. There is a need for constant and instant gratification by any means possible. It springs from seeking more for a greater high.[2] It is always not enough. There’s not enough praise, not enough money, not enough sex, etc.… The need to have more or feel entitled to more of something such as “better service” could be indicative of an addictive personality.

There is a solution!

Whether one has an addictive personality or may have a slight affinity with the traits listed above; it is important to take note of the solutions offered for living with an addictive personality: 

 i) Acceptance – We need to accept the personality and learn that the quality that drives addiction also drives success in life. There is a corollary between the attributes of a successful leader with those of an addict.[3] Both share the need to challenge norms and are driven single-mindedly towards a particular goal. Therefore, if one is capable of channeling addictive energy towards a more productive pursuit, given time; it will pay-off in not only staving the addiction, but provide a purposeful and meaningful life.

ii)  Don’t replace – Anything can be addictive. This makes it tricky for those in recovery because we can so cunningly take up something seemingly safe and pursue it in the same vain as our addiction. If unmonitored, this could develop into a cross-addiction. For instance, people who are off drugs for a while may substitute it by overeating certain foods that hit the same pleasure zones in the brain, i.e. that release dopamine. Hence, it is advised not to replace addictions but to get treated for the root-cause of one’s addictive behavior.

iii) Treatment – Coming into treatment for any addictive behavior is a step in the right direction even if it hasn’t spiraled into unmanageability. In treatment, one will learn how to manage the various aspects of the addictive personality via counseling and group therapy, lectures/seminars, and various interventions.

iv) Therapy – There are many types of therapies that aid in the cessation of addictive behaviors. One most common therapy helps people with addictive personalities figure out the mechanisms of their mind, feelings, and behavior. This therapy is called “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” (CBT) and is used widely to help addicts get in touch with their core beliefs and feelings behind their negative thoughts and beliefs. There are other types of therapies for the diversities and complexities of the addictive milieu such as DBT (Dialectic Behavioral Therapy) and REBT (Rational Emotive Behavioral Therapy).

v)  Working a program of recovery – The addictive personality cannot be changed without a constant program to work the slippery parts of the behavioral disorder. Hence, it is important for those who are aware of their addictive personalities to learn more about tempering their extreme emotional tendencies through a devised program of recovery. It could be a 12-step, SMART recovery, mindfulness, or even moral/religious programs, which aim to temper negative behavior.

vi)  Mindfulness – Acknowledging one’s feelings in the here and now helps to anchor those with addictive personality traits into the present moment. By doing so, they are better able to assess certain challenging situations and work out a solution that does not resort to addictive behaviors.

An Inner Addiction – The Addictive Personality

Addiction is not merely about the drugs or alcohol. Nor is it about the addictive behaviors. It is about the addictive personality and how that personality has found a problematic solution to solve life’s problems. Addiction was never the problem; it was simply this problematic solution to an even deeper problem or core issue. In this perspective, anybody is prone to addiction as long as they seek out these personality traits. This removes the stigma from addicts as they are but a known sample from a much larger group of people who have succumbed to resolving life’s issues using a toxic method of self-sufficiency. There are more people out there who do not identify themselves as addicts, but have the same potential in ending up as one. So long as ignorance and apathy run the show, it is likely that those who do not identify will soon join the ranks of the addicted when things become too unmanageable. Therefore, it is best to admit and see to it, that one’s mental health is in check before it gets too late for addiction is indeed more than meets the eye; there is an inner addiction that seeps into the personality of each one of us.

[1] Taken from:

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[3] Taken from:

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