Updated on October 9th, 2020
In movies and TV shows, there’s a typical type of person that is often portrayed as an addict. This person usually has certain traits and characteristics that people view as an “addictive personality.” Unfortunately, some people assume that having these personality traits means you are all but destined to succumb to addiction. But how much of this speculation is actually true? And is there truly an “addictive personality”?
What is an Addictive Personality?
Although indeed, certain recognizable traits are usually present in people who develop addictions, not every single person who becomes addicted will have those traits. It’s impossible to predict who will or won’t develop an addiction and an addictive personality is not a psychiatric diagnosis.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), no single factor can predict if a person will become addicted.1 So the idea that a person could have an “addictive personality” is based on false logic. Addiction is a highly complex disease and the likelihood of a person developing a drug addiction will differ from person to person, regardless of their personality traits.2
What Is the Definition of Addictive Behavior?
In American culture, we often say things like, “I’m addicted to this new show.” as a way of expressing that we really enjoy something. But in reality, an addiction is defined differently.
An addictive behavior is a compulsive action that a person continues to do despite negative physical and social consequences. When it comes to drug and alcohol addiction, a person will continually crave more and more of the drug too.
What Are Common Characteristics of An Addictive Personality?
Although the idea of having an addictive personality is flawed, there are certain characteristics that may increase a person’s risk of developing an addiction, which some people may view as addictive personality traits. Here are some of the main addictive personality traits.3
- Risk-taker: People who are risk-takers crave excitement. They need to feel a thrill. This can often be displayed in various ways, such as criminal behavior, risky financial investments, or dangerous physical stunts.
- Impulsive: Impulsive people are more likely to make sudden decisions without thoroughly thinking through the long-term consequences first. Although spontaneity is not necessarily a bad thing, irresponsible, impulsive behavior can often lead to trouble in the long run.
- Obsessive: Obsessive people feel unable to resist the need to repeat a certain action over and over. Examples may include gaming, gambling, having sex, shopping, or overworking. A healthy amount of these activities is not harmful, but in excess, they can be physically and mentally damaging.
- Lack of self-regulation: Someone who lacks self-regulation is unable to control their feelings, behaviors, and thoughts to achieve moderate use of alcohol or other potentially addictive substances.
Many people who possess these personality traits go on to live lives that are free of substance abuse and addiction, however, some do not.
What Causes An Addictive Personality?
Often, the underlying causes of an addictive personality stem from hidden depression and anxiety. A lack of impulse control can also contribute to the development of addictive behaviors like overeating, obsessing over video games, or abusing drugs or alcohol.
More often than not, a person with an addictive personality is someone who is just trying to heal from emotional hurt or repressed emotions without the proper tools to cope.
What Other Factors Increase the Risk of Addiction?
In addition to the four personality traits listed above, several other factors can increase a person’s risk of addiction. These risk factors, coupled with the addictive personality traits above, may create the “perfect storm” and lead to unhealthy attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, and ultimately, substance abuse problems.
Additional risk factors for addiction include:
- Several other family members who suffer from addiction (your genes and biology)
- Early exposure to drugs
- Experiencing high stress or anxiety
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Social alienation and loneliness
- Lack of parental guidance
- Lack of self-worth
- An environment that condones drug and alcohol abuse
Do I Have an Addictive Personality?
Most people want to know what addictive personality traits are because they are either worried that they could have an addictive personality or that a loved one does. People may also wonder “Do I have an addictive personality?” because they want to prevent future addictions.
If you’re concerned that you might have an addictive personality, the DSM 5 criteria for substance abuse can help you identify problematic behaviors that may be indicative of an addiction problem. If you identify with any of the following behaviors, you may have an addiction problem:
- You take larger or more frequent doses of a substance than you should
- You want to stop using the substance but you can’t
- You spend a lot of time getting the substance, using it, and recovering from use
- You have cravings to use the substance
- You continue to use the substance, even when it causes problems in relationships
- You give up other important social or recreational activities so you can use the substance
- You continue using the substance even when it puts you or someone else in physical danger
- You continue using the substance even when you know you have a psychological or physical dependence as a result
- You need more of the substance to get the effects you want
- You develop withdrawal symptoms which can only be relieved with more of the substance4
Determining whether or not you have an addictive personality isn’t always cut and dry, but you can use the criteria above to determine whether substance abuse and addiction is a problem for you.
Addictive Personality Test: Do You Have These “Addictive” Character Traits?
If you’re struggling with behaviors that you think might indicate an addictive personality you may have a higher likelihood of having or developing a drug or alcohol addiction. Take our addictive personality test below to see your results.
- Frequently manipulate others or lie to get your way?
- Struggle to maintain long-term relationships?
- Have very few (or no) friends?
- Consistently struggle to meet obligations at school, work, or in your personal life?
- Feel a sense of unworthiness or a lack of purpose in life?
- Feel like a victim to your circumstances or like your life is much harder than everyone else’s?
- Feel like the rules don’t apply to you?
- Find it nearly impossible to stick to a budget or schedule?
- Go to extreme lengths to alleviate boredom?
- Frequently spend too much money on random purchases and suffer financially as a result?
- Have a difficult time empathizing with other people?
- Have a hard time showing or feeling remorse for the hurt you’ve caused?
- Often participate in impulsive, risky, or thrill-seeking behavior?
- Frequently avoid taking responsibility for your actions?
- Suffer from frequent mood swings?
- Consistently perform less well than expected at work, school, or in life?
- Have very few or no personal goals?
If you answered “yes” to the majority of these questions, you may have certain personality traits that increase your risk of developing some type of addiction. If so, you will want to watch your behavior carefully and you may even choose to make some behavioral modifications to minimize your overall risk.
Regardless of your quiz results or your personality traits, addiction is a complex disease that can affect anyone. If you’re struggling to control your drug or alcohol use, it’s likely time to seek some help.
**These questions are based on research findings that identified certain personality traits to be more common among people with addictions. However, this quiz is not designed to diagnose addiction nor is it a substitute for a formal assessment from a medical provider.
How to Help Someone Who is at Risk for Addiction
Living with an addictive personality causes many challenges for the affected person and those around them. Having an addictive personality in relationships is particularly straining, as some of the character traits listed earlier in this blog can contribute to serious conflicts. Fortunately, you don’t necessarily have to worry about how to deal with an addictive personality. Instead, it’s more productive to focus on making behavioral changes that will improve your life and the lives of those around you.
If you have a friend or a loved one who has these addictive personality traits or who has experienced several of the other risk factors listed above, there’s nothing you can do to control their thoughts or behaviors and prevent them from developing an addiction. This can be a hard truth to swallow, especially if the at-risk person is a child, sibling, spouse, or other close loved one. However, there is help for an addictive personality and there are some things you can do to help a person avoid addiction problems.
First, you can encourage them to seek behavioral therapy and counseling to address the root causes of some of those high-risk characteristics and traits. Behavioral therapy can help a person learn how to moderate their thoughts and actions in a way that is beneficial to their overall health. It can also be a great opportunity to learn things about themselves that they had not previously realized while also learning how to communicate effectively and respectfully with others.
If your friend or loved one is already experimenting with drugs and alcohol or has already developed an addiction, it’s not too late to get help. A long-term addiction treatment regimen that consists of drug detox, inpatient or outpatient rehab, and continued care services like IOP and sober living will give your loved one the best chance at a life of sustained sobriety.
Call Nova Recovery Center at (512) 605-2955today and let us help you overcome your addiction as you learn how to live a life of lasting sobriety.