What Is an Addictive Personality?


An addictive personality is a set of certain personality traits that put individuals more at risk for addiction — it’s not an actual medical diagnosis. In fact, experts debate whether or not an addictive personality type actually exists. The reality is that substance use disorder is a disease that can affect anyone, regardless of their personality. Not everyone who struggles with addiction shares the same personality traits.

Understanding the risk factors for addiction is considered more complicated than recognizing certain personality traits. An individual’s likelihood of addiction can be influenced by their personality in addition to circumstances like poverty, lack of family support, availability of substances and other variables. Though the term “addictive personality” is controversial, it’s still widely used.

According to the theory behind addictive personality, once someone with an addictive personality discovers a pleasurable behavior, whether that’s alcohol use or gambling, they’re more likely to repeat that action to experience the same pleasure again. A pleasurable behavior triggers the release of dopamine in the brain. In the case of substance use, the body builds up a tolerance to the substance, so you need to use more of it to get the same dopamine rush, which perpetuates the addiction cycle.

Some signs of an addictive personality include seeking thrills, minimizing risk, aggression and struggling to self-regulate emotions and behavior. These personality traits can also be associated with mental illnesses that increase the risk of SUD.

What Causes an Addictive Personality?

Note that addictive personalities aren’t caused by a singular source. Like the risk of addiction, personality development is complicated. Each person’s personality develops through a combination of genetics, parenting and environment. While people can share personality traits, such as being an introvert, everyone has a unique personality that’s shaped by their individual life events.

An addictive personality isn’t the definitive answer to addiction risk, but certain traits are linked to recognized mental health issues that have a recognized connection to SUD. For example, 78% of adults with borderline personality disorder (BPD) experience SUD. BPD is associated with unstable personal relationships, risky behavior and intense anger, which are behaviors that can also fall under the umbrella of an addictive personality.

Similarly, anxiety and depression are associated with addiction risk. Those who struggle with mental health disorders such as social anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and major depressive disorder are also at risk of SUD. These mental health issues come with traits and behaviors that also could be considered a part of an addictive personality. For example, someone with major depression may feel apathy and use substances to self-medicate.

In general, addiction and mental illness are often co-occurring, which makes receiving a dual diagnosis an important part of treatment. If someone doesn’t have a medical professional diagnose and treat their underlying mental illness, it can be difficult for them to overcome their SUD.

Addictive Personality Traits

As stated, addictive personalities aren’t formally recognized as a medical diagnosis. Though the traits associated with an addictive personality vary depending on the source, some of the commonly recognized addictive personality traits are:

  • Impulsivity: Often, spontaneity is considered a fun personality trait, as someone who’s spontaneous is always up for an adventure. That said, spontaneity can also be described as impulsivity. An impulsive individual may be more likely to act without considering the long-term consequences.
  • Risk-taking: A person who’s more inclined to act impulsively may be prone to risky behavior and more likely to participate in addictive behaviors, such as taking substances.
  • Nonconformity: Displaying nonconformity has been associated with an increased risk of SUD. Those who don’t feel the need to adhere to social norms may be more prone to addictive behavior.
  • Dishonesty: Lying is associated with addiction. An individual may be dishonest about their addictive behavior, whether it’s using substances, gambling or something else.
  • Obsession: Obsession is commonly linked to addictive personalities. A person who acts obsessively may select certain behaviors to repeat. If someone with the obsessive personality trait struggles with SUD, they may fret about the next time they can use a particular substance.
  • Manipulation: Manipulation is a common behavior among people with SUD — someone with an addictive personality may use the people around them in an effort to continue their addiction. This could mean a person uses their loved ones for money or emotionally manipulates people to continue receiving support despite their SUD.
  • Apathy: An apathetic person often doesn’t care much about how their behavior affects themselves or others. Therefore, they may not worry about what their substance use does to their physical well-being, mental health and relationships with others.
  • Aggression: Aggression is often associated with addictive personalities. This trait makes people unfriendly and more likely to behave violently.

While the above traits may be associated with the risk of substance use, they’re not the sole influence or cause. Ultimately, no matter your personality, or whether you exhibit none, some or all of the above traits, you can develop SUD. Some life circumstances or events may make you more predisposed to developing SUD, such as being exposed to certain substances on a regular basis, but anyone is generally at risk of becoming reliant on a substance.

Contact Us for Help With Overcoming Substance Use

Crest View Recovery Center offers comprehensive care for people who are ready to seek substance use treatment. We know that sobriety is a long journey, and we’re here to help you or your loved one take the first steps.

Our team of psychiatrists, therapists and counselors work with you to develop an individualized treatment plan that serves as the foundation for your sobriety. We offer drug and alcohol rehabilitation programs to help individuals learn coping mechanisms and how to adopt the tools to move past substance use disorder.

Contact us to get started on the road to recovery.

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