In recent years, you hear the term “addictive personality” thrown around a lot. People use this when referring to their absorption with video games, or snack foods, or bad reality television. But what does the term Addictive Personality actually mean?
An addictive personality refers to a specific set of personality traits that predisposes a person to addiction. These sets of addiction-prone personality traits can be the result of both biological and environmental factors that contribute to the disease of addiction or alcoholism. The simplest definition of an addictive personality is a personality with a pattern of using pleasurable activities excessively to cope with unmanageable stress, despite the negative impact on quality of life.
Biological causes may be a major component to determining if a person has an addictive personality. Research into addiction has demonstrated that there is an element of inherited genetic susceptibility to alcoholism and many forms of addiction. A famous study performed by researchers at the University of Minnesota, which studied the separated twin children of alcoholics, found that there is a high degree of heredity when it comes to addiction. Like many other diseases, such as heart disease, genetic inheritance can play a significant role in determining whether someone will have an addictive personality.
Like many other psychological issues, environmental factors can also play a great role in shaping whether someone possesses an addictive personality. Environmental factors refer to the models of behavior that future addicts and alcoholics are exposed to, especially during the formative years of childhood. This can mean growing up in a dysfunctional home environment, where maladaptive behavior is ingrained in the addict/alcoholic as child. This is one of the contributing reasons why someone raised in an alcoholic home is eight times more likely to become an alcoholic himself or herself. Other things, such as traumas and abuse, can influence the development of an addictive personality. The most pronounced trait for someone with an addictive personality is a lack of learned, healthy coping mechanisms, which is usually the result of environmental causes.
So what are some of the signs and symptoms of an addictive personality? A key trait of addicts is a high degree of impulsivity. Addicts will also impulsively react to situations, specifically seeking a pleasurable reinforcement without thinking logically about the consequences of their actions. An addict’s brain becomes hard-wired from repetition to seek out substances or activities that will provide the flood of pleasure-related neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. Another feature of someone with an addictive personality is someone with an abnormally low threshold for emotional. People that are very sensitive to emotional stress typically have trouble handling with situations they find frustrating, and turn to mood-altering substances and other vices to deal with their feelings.
It is important to know that having an addictive personality does not mean that one is just susceptible to becoming and alcoholic or drug addict. Someone with an addictive personality is also at risk to developing and addiction to gambling, or sex, or compulsive shopping. They are also at risk of developing an eating disorder, either compulsive overeating or the reverse, a restrictive eating disorder like anorexia or bulimia. It is also important to remember that there is a high rate of addiction transference for those with addictive personalities; addicts will often trade an addiction to drugs for something like sex or gambling when their immediate situation becomes intolerable.
Just because someone has an addictive personality or possesses some of the traits related to having an addictive personality that does not mean that you are doomed to a life of addiction or alcoholism. Millions of people with the very same affliction have recovered from any number of addictions and enjoy happy, normal lives. The key is to find someone with experience treating the bio-psycho-social factors that can lead to an addiction. There are treatment professionals standing by to help you overcome these hurdles.