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Addictive personality

Addictive personality

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An addictive personality refers to a particular set of personality traits that make an individual predisposed to addictions
Substance dependence
The section about substance dependence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not use the word addiction at all. It explains:...

. People who are substance dependent
Substance dependence
The section about substance dependence in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders does not use the word addiction at all. It explains:...

 are characterized by: a physical or psychological dependency that negatively impacts the quality of life
Quality of life
The term quality of life is used to evaluate the general well-being of individuals and societies. The term is used in a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, and politics. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of...

. They are frequently connected with substance abuse
Substance abuse
A substance-related disorder is an umbrella term used to describe several different conditions associated with several different substances .A substance related disorder is a condition in which an individual uses or abuses a...

, however, people with addictive personalities are also highly at risk of becoming addicted to: gambling, food, pornography
Pornography addiction
Pornography addiction, or more broadly overuse of pornography, is excessive pornography use that interferes with daily life.There is no diagnosis of pornography addiction in the current Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders , and as with the broader proposed diagnosis of sexual...

, exercise, work, and even relationships (codependency). People engaged in addictive behavior tend to plan their lives around it. Scientists have been able to better understand addictive personalities as researchers delve further into understanding the chemistry of addiction. Alan R. Lang of Florida State University
Florida State University
The Florida State University is a space-grant and sea-grant public university located in Tallahassee, Florida, United States. It is a comprehensive doctoral research university with medical programs and significant research activity as determined by the Carnegie Foundation...

 and author of an addiction study prepared for the National Academy of Sciences
United States National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Sciences is a corporation in the United States whose members serve pro bono as "advisers to the nation on science, engineering, and medicine." As a national academy, new members of the organization are elected annually by current members, based on their distinguished and...

 said, "If we can better identify the personality factors, they can help us devise better treatment and can open up new strategies to intervene and break the patterns of addiction".


An addictive personality disorder may be defined as a psychological setback that makes a person more susceptible to addictions. This can include anything from drug
Drug abuse
Substance abuse, also known as drug abuse, refers to a maladaptive pattern of use of a substance that is not considered dependent. The term "drug abuse" does not exclude dependency, but is otherwise used in a similar manner in nonmedical contexts...

 and alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse
Alcohol abuse, as described in the DSM-IV, is a psychiatric diagnosis describing the recurring use of alcoholic beverages despite negative consequences. Alcohol abuse eventually progresses to alcoholism, a condition in which an individual becomes dependent on alcoholic beverages in order to avoid...

 to pornography
Pornography or porn is the explicit portrayal of sexual subject matter for the purposes of sexual arousal and erotic satisfaction.Pornography may use any of a variety of media, ranging from books, magazines, postcards, photos, sculpture, drawing, painting, animation, sound recording, film, video,...

, gambling
Gambling is the wagering of money or something of material value on an event with an uncertain outcome with the primary intent of winning additional money and/or material goods...

, Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

, videogames
VideoGames may refer to:*VideoGames, a mid-1990s magazine about video games.*Video games in general....

, food
Overeating generally refers to the long-term consumption of excess food in relation to the energy that an organism expends , leading to weight gainingand often obesity. It may be regarded as an eating disorder....

, exercise, work
A workaholic is a person who is addicted to work.The term generally implies that the person enjoys their work; it can also imply that they simply feel compelled to do it...

 and even relationships with others. Experts describe the spectrum of behaviors designated as addictive in terms of five interrelated concepts which include: patterns, habits, compulsions, impulse control disorders, and physical addiction. An individual is considered to be at the risk of developing such addictions when he/she displays signs of impulsive behavior, nonconformity combined with a weak commitment to the goals for achievement valued by the society, a sense of social alienation, and a sense of heightened stress
Chronic stress
Chronic stress is the response to emotional pressure suffered for a prolonged period over which an individual perceives he or she has no control. It involves an endocrine system response in which occurs a release of corticosteroids...

. Such a person may switch from one addiction to another; or even sustain multiple addictions at different times.

Signs and symptoms

People who are suffering from addictive personality disorder are currently defined to have a "brain disease" as promoted by the National Institute on Drug Abuse
National Institute on Drug Abuse
The National Institute on Drug Abuse is a United States federal-government research institute whose mission is to "lead the Nation in bringing the power of science to bear on drug abuse and addiction."-History:...

 and other authorities. People with addictive personalities are very much sensitive to stress. They have trouble handling situations that they deem frustrating, even if the event is for a very short duration. They often lack self-esteem
Self-esteem is a term in psychology to reflect a person's overall evaluation or appraisal of his or her own worth. Self-esteem encompasses beliefs and emotions such as triumph, despair, pride and shame: some would distinguish how 'the self-concept is what we think about the self; self-esteem, the...

 and will show impulsive behavior such as excessive caffeine consumption, Internet usage, eating of chocolates or other sugar-laden foods, television watching, or even running.

Mood swing
Mood swing
-Associated disorders:Mood swings are commonly associated with mood disorders including bipolar disorder and depression. In patients with cases of bipolar disorder, the patient experiences serious mood swings that last for days or even weeks...

s and antisocial behavior are other visible traits of people that suffer from addictive personality disorder. They may turn down invitations to social gatherings in order to alienate themselves from their respective societies. The main reason behind such behavior is that they are fearful of being caught with this disorder. The feeling of isolation will often have negative effects on the people facing the issue, and so to substitute for the lack of personal relationships, they turn towards drugs, including smoking or alcohol consumption, or the like. They usually will believe that such harmful substances serve as "quick-fix" solutions for their life's problems.

People suffering from APD find it difficult to manage their stress levels. In fact, lack of stress tolerance is a telltale sign of the disorder. They find it difficult to face stressful situations and fight hard to get out of such conditions.

Long-term goals prove difficult to achieve because people with APD usually focus on the stress that comes with getting through the short-term goals. Such personalities will often switch to other enjoyable activities the moment that they are deprived of enjoyment in their previous addiction.

Addictive individuals feel highly insecure when it comes to relationships. They may often find it difficult to make commitments in relationships or trust their beloved because of the difficulty they find in achieving long-term goals. They constantly seek approval of others and as a result, these misunderstandings may contribute to the destruction of relationships. People suffering from addictive personality disorder usually undergo depression
Depression (mood)
Depression is a state of low mood and aversion to activity that can affect a person's thoughts, behaviour, feelings and physical well-being. Depressed people may feel sad, anxious, empty, hopeless, helpless, worthless, guilty, irritable, or restless...

 and anxiety
Anxiety is a psychological and physiological state characterized by somatic, emotional, cognitive, and behavioral components. The root meaning of the word anxiety is 'to vex or trouble'; in either presence or absence of psychological stress, anxiety can create feelings of fear, worry, uneasiness,...

, managing their emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

s by developing addiction to alcohol, other types of drugs, or other pleasurable activities.

Causes of Addiction

A large majority of addicts have more than one severe personality disorder. Many addicts have personality disorders like schizophrenia, paranoia, and obssesive compulsive disorder. These personality disorders are not always diagnosable and often times the patients are considered neurotic. An addict's personality is more prone to depression, anxiety, and anger. They also seem to have a biological tendency that makes them more likely to suffer a great deal from stress. Both the addict's environment and biological tendency contribute to how they handle stress. A lot of people with personality disorders have disturbances that make them act the way they do. These disturbances are called unfortunate activating events and adversities. People with very severe personality disorders are more likely to become addicts. Addictive substances usually stop primary and secondary neuroses meaning people with personality disorders like the relief from their pain. People that are diagnosed with both addiction and a personality disorder usually have a more severe addiction because they are so disturbed. Ellis, A. (1998). Addictive Behaviors and Personality Disorders. Social Policy, 29(2), 25-30. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Personality Traits and addiction

Alan R. Lang, a psychology professor at Florida State University, wrote in a study that the continuing search for the personality traits that play a part in the development of addictions are important for the broader fight against addiction. Identifying the different personality traits will help in the long term when it comes to the treatment of addiction, the strategies to intervene, and how to break the pattern of addiction. With addictive tragedies becoming prevalent in communities around the nation scientists are asking questions about the aspects of psychological makeup and how they contribute to addiction. They also want to know if there are common threads that are in all addictions, from hard drugs to cigarettes and from gambling to overeating? Through the information that already exists on the personality's role in addictions, with a lot of emphasis on drugs and alcohol, a study from prepared for the National Academy of sciences says that there is no in single set of psychological characteristics that contain all addictions. But the study did show that there are common elements between all addictions.

Common forms of addictive behavior

Substance abuse and dependence is one of the most common displays of addictive personalities. Alcohol is the most frequently abused psychoactive substance and affects over 20 million Americans—13 percent of the adult population. Aside from alcohol, other psychoactive drugs that can be said to link to addictive personality disorder include narcotic
The term narcotic originally referred medically to any psychoactive compound with any sleep-inducing properties. In the United States of America it has since become associated with opioids, commonly morphine and heroin and their derivatives, such as hydrocodone. The term is, today, imprecisely...

s, stimulant
Stimulants are psychoactive drugs which induce temporary improvements in either mental or physical function or both. Examples of these kinds of effects may include enhanced alertness, wakefulness, and locomotion, among others...

s and anti-anxiety drugs. While drug abuse and dependence can happen to anyone, it is significantly more likely to occur in the presence of an addictive personality.

Another common addiction that may attract those with addictive personalities is gambling. When an addict behaves mindlessly and irresponsibly while gambling, it can grow to be a bigger problem. A gambler with an addictive personality goes through three stages. The first is the "winning phase" in which the person can still control his or her own behavior. Second comes the "losing phase" where the individual starts to gamble alone, borrowing cash and gambling large sums of money compiling debt which he or she may not be able to pay off. Finally, the "desperation phase" of the addictive behavior gambler is when the person takes further risks, may engage in illegal loans and activities and even experience depression or attempt suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...


Addictive personality behaviors even include eating disorders, such as anorexia
Anorexia nervosa
Anorexia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight and an obsessive fear of gaining weight. Although commonly called "anorexia", that term on its own denotes any symptomatic loss of appetite and is not strictly accurate...

, bulimia
Bulimia nervosa
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by binge eating and purging or consuming a large amount of food in a short amount of time, followed by an attempt to rid oneself of the food consumed, usually by purging and/or by laxative, diuretics or excessive exercise. Bulimia nervosa is...

 and compulsive overeating. There are many external factors that also contribute to disordered eating behavior, but for some it can develop into a pathology quite similar to addiction. Those with anorexia nervosa channel their success into this one goal. Once a person starts dieting, it is very difficult for him or her to quit. This is similarly true for those suffering from bulimia. A person is said to have bulimia when he or she binges on large amounts of food and then prevents absorption by purging (laxatives, vomiting, water pills, etc.). With compulsive eating, the person has a compulsive urge or craving to eat and will eat even when not hungry. This addictive behavior often results in obesity.

Addictive personality, as mentioned throughout the article, does not just pertain to alcohol or drug abuse. Another form of addictive personality is problematic cell phone use. A recent study indicates that people who are addicted to their cell phones share common traits with those who suffer from an addictive personality. Characteristics such as self-monitoring, low self-esteem, and peer approval-motivation are commonly found in those who are addicted to their cell phones as well as those who suffer from any other addiction such as alcoholism. Despite personality characteristics leading to addictive tendencies, cell phones themselves can partly be blamed for causing addiction. Improvements in cell phones such as GPS, music players, cameras, web browsing, and e-mail can make them an indispensable instrument to an individual. Technological advancements reinforce the over-attachment people have to their cell phones, thus contributing to addictive personality.

Another form of behavior that is still being investigated is obsessive tanning as a behavioral addiction. In a recent study, researchers have proved that many frequent tanners demonstrate signs and symptoms adapted from substance abuse or dependence criteria. Many people who admit to being frequent tanners say they tan to look good, feel good, and to relax. People who partake in excessive tanning are usually completely aware of the health risks associated with it, just like addicted smokers are completely aware of the health risks of smoking. Due to the fact that the health risks do not deter tanners from their habit, they are exhibiting self-destructive behavior that resembles the characteristics of those who suffer from substance abuse.

Frequent tanners have said a primary reason why they participate in artificial tanning is to experience the "feel good" feeling tanning salons have to offer. Researchers have found that ultraviolet (UV) radiation from tanning beds offers mood-enhancing effects that act as a treatment for seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder
Seasonal affective disorder , also known as winter depression, winter blues, summer depression, summer blues, or seasonal depression, is a mood disorder in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year experience depressive symptoms in the winter or summer, spring or autumn...

 (SAD). SAD is when a person exhibits minor depression during seasonal changes, such as during the winter months. Ultraviolet radiation has been proven to increase the level of melatonin in the body. Melatonin
Melatonin , also known chemically as N-acetyl-5-methoxytryptamine, is a naturally occurring compound found in animals, plants, and microbes...

 plays a key role in sleep patterns and is suggested to reduce anxiety levels. Thus, those who go tanning experience a sense of relaxation afterwards. This sensation is what possibly drives tanners to continue tanning regardless of the health risks. More research needs to be done, but many researchers are beginning to add tanning to the list of addictive processes.

Two increasingly more common displays of addictive personalities are work and exercise. Our society rewards those who work hard. But work may become an obsession if family, friends, interests and hobbies have suddenly become unimportant. Likewise, an extreme commitment to exercise that can sometimes lead to self-destructive and harmful behavior is an example of addictive behavior.

Neurotic Addictions

When a person is a "normal neurotic" this is different from a personality addiction because they have less adversities and their addictions stem from different causes. Their addiction is based off their belief system that they must perform well, live a comfortable life, and be loved. They feel they need a substance to give them relieve or distract them from their pain. They are almost child-like in their demands for a substance and when their demands lead to disturbances the neurotic will insist they are not disturbed. Normal neurotics are less likely to become addicts than people with a personality disorder and have an easier time getting over their addiction.


Addictive personalities and the subsequent addictions are difficult to treat, and more seriously, addictive behavior itself often has long-term psychological consequences. Physical addictions even alter an individual's brain chemistry, making the road to recovery longer and more difficult. Often the person with a physical addiction cannot be exposed to the addictive habit without lapsing back into addiction. This is why rates of being "cured" are often closely followed by setbacks. The first step in the recovery process of addictive behaviors is to admit that there is a problem and seek help. Medical intervention may be necessary for those who engage in substance abuse—medication is often used to treat withdrawal symptoms and treat for malnutrition. Many forms of psychological intervention
Intervention (counseling)
An intervention is an orchestrated attempt by one, or often many, people to get someone to seek professional help with an addiction or some kind of traumatic event or crisis, or other serious problem. The term intervention is most often used when the traumatic event involves addiction to drugs...

 are also available to those with addictive personalities, including counseling and inpatient programs, group therapy, environmental intervention and behavior therapy.

One form of treatment that has been overlooked is self-soothing. People with addictive personality disorders use their addictions to self-sooth themselves in stressful situations. But because their addictions do not actually self-sooth them, they feel the need to do their addiction more often. For example, a person with OCD will repetitively do their obsessions and compulsions because they think it will sooth them. So a treatment option for those suffering from addictive personality disorder is for them to learn to self-sooth themselves in stressful situations in a positive manner. This is done through intense therapy, where the therapist needs to be patient in order to help those suffering. The therapist will help the patient overcome their helplessness so that the patient can learn to self-sooth.

External links

  • "Addiction/Addictive Personality." N.p., 6 April 2001. Rpt. in Encyclopedia of Psychology. BNET. Web. 7 April 2010.
  • Benedict-Mason, Stephen. "The Addictive Personality." Psychology Today
    Psychology Today
    Psychology Today is a bi-monthly magazine published in the United States. It is a psychology-based magazine about relationships, health, and related topics written for a mass audience of non-psychologists. Psychology Today was founded in 1967 and features articles on such topics as love,...

    . N.p., 14 March 2009. Web. 31 March 2010.
  • Engs, Ruth C. "The Addictive Process and Addictive Behaviors." Addictive Behaviors. N.p., n.d. Web. 31 March 2010.
  • Nelson, Bryce. "The Addictive Personality: Common Traits Are Found." The New York Times
    The New York Times
    The New York Times is an American daily newspaper founded and continuously published in New York City since 1851. The New York Times has won 106 Pulitzer Prizes, the most of any news organization...

    . N.p., 18 January 1983. Web. 31 March 2010.