Brien Gleeson, L.P.C., CSAC
Psychiatry & Psychology
Speaking of HealthDoes society have a sex addiction problem?November 02, 2022
Speaking of HealthDon't bet on it: Know when sports gambling is more than entertainmentFebruary 20, 2020
Some people appear to overindulge more than others or seem incapable of saying "no" or "enough already." You may have heard the term "addictive personality" to describe people who believe that too much of a good thing is never enough. But is this an actual diagnosis, and do some personality traits increase a person's addiction risk?
Here's a closer look at addictive personality traits and their effect on the likelihood of addiction.
Types of addiction
Addiction is a disease that affects a person's brain, their behaviors and results in the compulsive need either for a substance or to participate in a specific behavior despite adverse consequences. There are many causes or factors leading to addiction.
Generally, addictions fall into two categories ― misusing or overusing substances and excessively engaging in behaviors regardless of the costs.
A substance use disorder, sometimes called a drug or alcohol addiction, is the inability for a person to control their use of a legal or illegal drug or medicine.
People also can develop an addiction to activities or behaviors like shopping, screen time including video games, gambling, sex, pornography or food.
Individually, repeated use of drugs or alcohol or just engaging in these behaviors are not addictions. It's unlikely that you have an addiction if you often enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or occasionally buy a lottery ticket. Addiction is distinguished by a person's inability to control the behavior, difficulty going without it, intense cravings for it and continued action despite negative consequences.
Addiction is often isolating. For some, it can be a self-medicated solution to underlying problems or trauma.
An addictive personality is not a diagnosable disease or condition. There isn't one single trait that leads to addiction. Instead, this term is used to informally describe a collection of characteristics, environmental factors and health conditions that make a person more prone to developing an addiction.
Common characteristics or factors include:
- Adventurous or thrill-seeking
- Attention deficit disorder diagnosis
- Comfort with secrets or lying
- Desire for immediate gratification
- Difficulty in accepting responsibility
- Difficulty with self-regulation
- Ease with risk-taking behaviors
- Early childhood trauma
- Exposure to drugs and alcohol
- Family history of addiction
- Mental health conditions like anxiety and depression
- Neuroticism or high levels of sensitivity or nervousness
- Obsessive and compulsive behaviors
Not everyone with these traits will develop an addiction. Having some or all of these does not foretell a person's fate. Personal decisions, support networks and other genetic and environmental factors affect the likelihood of addictive behaviors emerging.
Signs of addiction
Some addictions develop quickly and are immediately apparent to the person and loved ones. Others progress over time, making it a challenge to identify when a passion has become unhealthy.
Let's look at the example of shopping. Every person needs to purchase items to live in our society. But if you get an extreme high or euphoria when you go shopping, there is the potential that this behavior could become addictive. Other signs could be that you need to keep buying things to keep your mood high or that your shopping habits are jeopardizing your career, budget or personal relationships.
Watch for these signs of addiction:
- Always wanting more
Feeling that you must use the substance or engage in the behavior regularly ― daily or even several times a day.
- Financial problems
Spending a significant amount of money on an addictive substance or behavior, even though you can't afford it.
- Inability to stop
Failed attempts to stop, even when you want to, or not being able to follow rules that you have set for yourself.
- Increased tolerance
Needing more of the drug or behavior to get the same effect.
- Intense cravings
Having strong urges that block out other thoughts.
- Loss of control
Difficulty in controlling use or behavior, even though you know it's causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm.
- Loss of interest in hobbies or other people
Former interests, activities or relationships don't hold the same appeal, and addiction takes precedence.
- Neglecting responsibilities
Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of behavior or substance.
Spending considerable time thinking about, obtaining or recovering from the behavior or substance.
Driving or doing other risky activities like stealing when you're under the influence.
Hiding substance use from others and being deceptive about activities.
People with an addiction often are the last to recognize that they have a problem or have lost control. These problems can severely affect their health, relationships, careers and other aspects of their lives.
Watch this video to learn if your behavior is OK or something to be concerned about:
Help is available. Addiction and its related problems can be treated successfully, but no single treatment works for addictions. Recovery is an ongoing process requiring time and patience.
Unfortunately, there continues to be a stigma surrounding addiction that can prevent people from seeking necessary help. It's important to be honest and transparent with your healthcare team if you or someone you know is struggling with an addiction.