Do I Have an Addictive Personality?

Certain attitudes and behaviours are commonly found in people suffering from addiction of all kinds. Together, they are sometimes described as an ‘addictive personality.’ This is not an officially recognised term and people showing these traits are not necessarily going to be addicted. It may however be useful to check if you display any such characteristics, so as to be aware of the danger.

What Is an Addictive Personality?

An addictive personality is not a clinical term but a description that is used for a person whose personality displays certain recognisable features commonly found in addicted people. These features appear in addiction of all kinds – they are as common in substance abusers as those with behavioural disorders such as gambling or pornography.

The fact that you display certain of these traits in your personality does not mean that you are sure to have some sort of addiction in your life. It does indicate however, that you may be at risk and therefore that it may be prudent to take certain precautions.

Contributing Influences on Your Personality

The personality that you have, or think you have, do not alone drive you to become addicted. In fact, your personality will have evolved through a number of processes over time. These influences which together contribute to making you the person you are, are generally as follows:

  • Genetic – a large proportion of people with addiction disorders can show a history of family members with similar problems. Addiction may sometimes skip a generation but is often there in the background.
  • Environmental – we are greatly affected by our environment and the behaviour of others. Highly stressful work or social activity can lead to the discovery of unhealthy coping strategies such as substance misuse. The manner in which addiction is portrayed in cinema, tv and social network platforms can also be influential and the portrayal of drink and drug use as macho and attractive can be hugely influential.
  • Mental Health – Where a person struggles with mental health they become emotionally vulnerable and thus susceptible to addictive practices despite their self-defeating nature. Medication for conditions like depression or emotional trauma can progress into maladaptive dependence.
  • Exposure – exposure to addictive behaviour such as friends who abuse drugs and alcohol or who gamble, can have a powerful effect, especially in teenage years and early adulthood. People who grow up in families where there is no addiction are less likely to become addicted that those from homes where it is ‘normal’ to drink heavily or smoke weed.

There Is No Specific Addictive Personality Type

In fact, there is no single personality type that identifies a person as an addict. Many people from very different backgrounds become addicted and sometimes it is not possible to say why this happened, let alone predict the event in advance. Nevertheless, there is a certain commonality of character traits that regularly appear – sufficient to be considered as warning signs.

Behaviours Commonly Found in Addicted People

You may already be aware at some deep level that your behaviour and attitudes in certain situations have a tendency to lead you into trouble – more so perhaps, than other people’s. Understanding yourself as much as you can is the best way to begin doing something about the situation. Consider as honestly as you can, how many of the following behaviours you can recognise in yourself:

  • Impulsiveness – this often occurs as an alternative to a sober review of the facts, for fear of what they might reveal.
  • Grandiosity – when self-obsession and self-importance are taken to unhealthy extremes, this is sometimes a symptom of an underlying mental health issue.
  • Inability to deal with stress and anxiety – some people thrive on stress, some feel overwhelmed, and it is their response to the ‘can’t cope’ feeling that can lead to trouble.
  • Difficulty following rules – this might be a clinical disorder in the form of ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) or might just be a sign that a person considers themselves different because conforming is too painful. It may be a way of coping emotionally with a previous traumatic experience.
  • Low self-esteem – It is possible to have this and grandiosity at the same time, but the combination is usually self-defeating. Low self-esteem leads us to protect our inner self from pain in often inappropriate ways – aggression, self-obsession, isolation and self-pity.
  • Unrealistic view of reality – when the reality is not to our liking, such as when we do unacceptable things – we lie to ourselves in response. Some of us are very good at this but the trouble is, deep down our conscience tells us we are wrong, and this makes us fundamentally unhappy.
  • Compulsiveness – some people find their actions very hard to control. This may be a clinical condition such as OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder) or a milder form of repetitive activity. It usually stems from anxiety, fear and insecurity and is a coping device that gives a temporary feeling of control.
  • Impatience – impatience is often a response to pain or the perception of imminent pain. This relates to the classic addictive quest for the ‘quick fix’ that is so familiar to addicted people. Any sort of impulse-led gratification opens up a deadly path.
  • Risk-taking – when a person starts risk-taking activities, they are effectively accepting the possibility of negative consequences involving pain of some kind in exchange for greater rewards such as excitement and enjoyment. When started at an early age, even small seeming acts like children smoking cigarettes can develop later into serious addictive patterns of behaviour.

A Time for Caution

If you recognise several of these above behaviours in yourself do not be alarmed – it is after all, quite a long list. It does however indicate that statistically, you are in a population that is potentially at greater risk of addiction than some others. It does not mean that you are going to become addicted but it does suggest that, if you were to put yourself at further risk – say, consorting with heavy drug users or leading a high-stress lifestyle where alcohol was present – then the danger of addiction for you would be higher than for most.

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Coping Strategies Can Evolve Into Addictive Behaviour

Addiction happens when a person repeatedly seeks out and uses a substance or engages in an activity despite understanding that this action will likely create a self-defeating outcome. Some behavioural responses could indicate that a person is more likely to become, or already is an addict because these responses indicate an attempt to cope with emotional pain of some kind. Typically, these responses might take the form of:

  • Arrogance
  • Aggressiveness
  • Victim mode
  • Secretiveness
  • Short Temper
  • Sensitivity
  • Defensiveness
  • Avoidant

The danger here is that when a person is already displaying some of the above behaviours, they may discover an addictive behaviour such as substance abuse, which appears at first to offer a better solution for dealing with their pain. After some time, they discover that addiction is even more maladaptive and self-defeating than their original coping strategy but by then it is too late, and they find themselves trapped.

Further Self-Examination

If you recognise within yourself a propensity to resort to some of the behaviour patterns mentioned here, then at the very least, it may be a good time to take stock of the situation. Understand that certain behaviours, though not themselves damaging, may be dangerous for you because they can lead to more self-defeating actions. Perhaps you might benefit from honestly asking yourself some further questions such as:

  • When have I felt that my responses to recent difficult emotional situations could have been better?
  • What is my current attitude to substance use and alcohol and how much has it been influenced by the behaviour of others?
  • Which of the best-known addictions (alcohol, substance abuse, gambling, pornography, shopping) appeals to me most (if any)?
  • How do I feel when I think about any recent potentially addictive behaviour such as a night out drinking – excited, amused, ashamed or whatever? Why do you feel like this?
  • How would it make me feel if I had to give up all potentially addictive activities?

If your answers to any of these questions make you feel uncomfortable, then perhaps you are in the early stages of playing with a dangerous fire that seems attractive to you because of your personality traits.

Keep a Sensible Attitude

Whatever the addiction, our relationship with it evolves. At the beginning it seems fun but the attraction gradually grows stronger until we become dependent to the point where we feel we cannot live without it. To stay clean and sober and free from all addiction requires, if nothing else, a thorough understanding of ourselves and the make-up of our personalities. Recognising our addictive traits and taking remedial action where needed is a sensible action. You would expect to keep your car in good shape, so why not yourself? Taking a few moments to evaluate your personality and identify any addictive dangers could save you many years of misery.

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