What are the Traits of an Addictive Personality?
When people talk about ‘addictive personality’, they are referring to the concept that there is one type of personality that makes individuals more prone to addiction.
It is the idea that these people become obsessive easily and struggle to handle moderation in the same way that the average person can.
However, it is not true that there is one type of personality that leads to addiction. There are many different potential causes of addiction, and while your personality type may influence your substance use, it does not completely determine it.
Traits of Addictive Personality
People of all different personality types can fall victim to addiction. However, there are certain personality traits that are more associated with addictive behaviours, and this may be how the idea of one ‘addictive personality’ was popularised.
Some examples of traits of an ‘addictive personality’, that have been linked to addiction, are:
- Being obsessive
- Being adventurous
- Being impulsive
- Having mood swings
- Being irresponsible
- Taking risks
- Being apathetic
- Being manipulative
- Being selfish
- Struggling with self-regulation
- Being very cautious
Why Do Addictive Personality Traits Increase the Likelihood of Addiction?
Let’s explore some addictive personality traits and explain why they make people more likely to suffer from addiction.
When people are obsessive, they struggle to try new things without making the new thing a central focus in their life. This means that when they use substances, they may be unable to do this just once or rarely, and they may jump straight into regular use.
Using substances frequently increases the chances of an addiction developing.
Furthermore, they are more likely to take higher doses of the substance for the same reasons, and this is another thing that can lead to addiction, as the body adapts to the high dose it is receiving, and keeps craving more.
People who are naturally adventurous are much more likely to seek out substances than other people, as they are excited by new experiences, and they may have less fear surrounding what could go wrong.
What’s more, adventurous people may not experience dopamine in the same way as a non-adventurous person. This means they may have to seek out more thrilling experiences to get the same level of dopamine, so using illegal substances may be high up on their list of dopamine hits.
3. Lack of self-regulation
People who have trouble self-regulating are more likely to suffer from addiction, as they will find it hard to regulate their emotions when they are going through difficult times, which could cause them to try to self-medicate with substances.
The lack of self-regulation may also make it harder for them to make sensible choices when it comes to using drugs. They are more likely to act impulsively and engage in risky behaviours as a result of their lack of self-regulation.
4. Being very cautious
It may seem bizarre that an overly cautious person could end up with a substance use issue, as we usually associate this problem with people who are too care-free.
However, it is possible for an overly cautious person to be more at risk of developing an addiction, as they are likely to be suffering with loneliness or anxiety.
If they discover substances, they may become addicted to the relaxed feeling they get when they are under the influence, and the confidence they are given.
5. Being apathetic
If someone is apathetic, they are less likely to consider the dangers of addiction, both for themselves and their family.
Many people are deterred from drug use as they fear the dangerous symptoms, they are concerned about the effects on one’s mental health, and they would not want to put themselves in harm’s way and make their loved ones worried.
However, if someone is apathetic, this will not concern them, and therefore they are more likely to get involved with risky substance use, including high doses, bingeing, and using on a daily basis. All of these factors increase the risk of addiction.
That being said, we do not want you to think that all victims of addiction are apathetic.
Addiction is a disease, and while users may sometimes prioritise drugs over their loved ones and their responsibilities, this is a symptom of severe addiction, and it is usually not a reflection of their personality or their level of care for those around them.
Myths About Addictive Personality
The idea of an addictive personality is a myth in itself, but here are some specific myths about addictive personality that you may have heard:
1. Only people with addictive personality traits will develop an addiction
Though it is more likely for impulsive, apathetic risk-takers to develop an addiction, if there are no other factors increasing their sensitivity to addiction, they may never experience problems.
Similarly, someone who is sensible, guarded, and empathetic could end up developing a substance use problem. This is because there are many factors influencing someone’s likelihood to develop an addiction, including trauma and genetics.
2. People with an addictive personality cannot recover from addiction
One harmful myth that comes from the addictive personality theory is that people with this personality type cannot recover from addiction.
If they are already likely to be irresponsible and obsessive, it is believed that they will struggle to develop the maturity needed to get sober.
However, this is a myth because anyone can get sober. It is true that it is harder for some than others, but there are many factors influencing this, not just personality type.
For example, it is harder for people to recover when they don’t have a strong support network, they have used drugs for many years, and they suffer from poor mental health.
What’s more, there is no final stage of recovery, as addiction is not something anyone can completely heal from and move away from. Instead, they will have to put in work to stay sober, and this applies to people with and without addictive personality traits.
What Causes Addiction?
Now that you know that addictive personality is a myth, what is the main cause of addiction if it is not one’s personality?
Firstly, genetics influence a person’s susceptibility to addiction. This is why you may hear about addiction ‘running in families’; if one family member deals with substance use, it is likely that there will be another family member who is also struggling.
This does not mean that you can be born with an addiction gene that makes addiction inevitable.
It is much more complicated than this, as there is no single addiction gene, and you may be genetically prone to addiction, but your environment means that you never end up using substances or getting hooked on them.
However, it still stands that genetics are the most important factor in the development of addiction. Studies suggest that 40-60% of one’s vulnerability to addiction is controlled by their genetics.
Moreover, if you have a parent who has dealt with addiction, you are 25% more likely to end up with a substance use problem.
Secondly, your environment can trigger addiction. If you have plenty of experiences with substances, you are more likely to develop an addiction than someone who has been sheltered from substance use.
This is particularly true if drugs are normalised for you, and you have not witnessed the many negative side effects of using drugs.
For example, if your parents used drugs when you were a child, and you only ever saw them in a relaxed state when they did this, you may be vulnerable to addiction as you are not deterred from the negative consequences.
Yet, even if you have witnessed the dangers of addiction, you are still more likely to develop one than someone who is not frequently exposed to it.
For instance, if all of your friends are drug users, it is inevitably more normalised for you, and therefore addiction is more likely.
Trauma can also cause addiction to develop, as people use drugs as a way to deal with their emotional issues.
Childhood trauma in particular has strong links to addiction in later life. This is partly because of the general link between trauma and addiction, but it may also be attributed to changes in the brain that occur as a result of childhood trauma.
When we are exposed to trauma as a child, the overproduction of cortisol can damage the hippocampus, which has a wide range of potential consequences including problems with self-regulation, memory, learning, and the stress response.
This damage to the brain can make people more likely to use substances, and become dependent on substances, because they struggle more to make sensible decisions, and they struggle to cope with negative feelings due to their sensitive stress response (1).
Finally, mental health can have a significant impact on the development of addiction. Just like trauma, mental health conditions are difficult to manage, and individuals may use substances to cope with their symptoms.
Chronic stress has been closely associated with addiction – both as a risk factor for addiction, and a risk factor for relapse in people who are already dealing with substance use problems.
It has been discovered that the more stress an individual is under, the more vulnerable they are to addiction (2).
Treatment For People With an ‘Addictive Personality’
There is no treatment for people with an ‘addictive personality’, as there is no such thing. However, in terms of treatment for addictive traits, the best solution is to go to therapy and learn how to manage these traits.
Some traits linked to addiction have as many positive consequences as negative.
For example, if someone is very adventurous, this could lead to more accidents and risky behaviours, but it could also lead to wonderful opportunities and fulfilling hobbies.
Another example is that someone may be very impulsive, but when this is managed carefully, this can result in them being the spontaneous friend who prioritises socialising and keeps everyone busy.
For this reason, we encourage you to not view addictive traits as entirely negative, or to fear that they will always result in the development of an addiction, as this is not the case.
However, some traits associated with addiction can be damaging for the individual, even if they do not end up using substances. For example, someone who is apathetic may find that they cannot form deep relationships with people.
In this situation, we would again recommend therapy as only a trained therapist will be able to figure out where the apathy comes from and how you can handle it in the healthiest way.
Overall, if you are someone who gets obsessed with things easily, we recommend keeping yourself occupied with a wide range of hobbies that benefit your mental and physical wellbeing.
Some examples of hobbies that are great for your physical health include: going to the gym, walking, playing team sports, and getting involved with local runs e.g., fun runs or charity runs.
Activities that benefit your mental health (as well as the previous activities) include: journalling, meditating, practising mindfulness, painting, drawing, listening to music, playing an instrument, and reading.
How Can Rehab Recovery Help?
As addictive personality is not a recognised condition, we do not refer people to rehab for this. However, if you are dealing with addiction (whether you have addictive traits or not), we would be more than happy to refer you to a private drug rehab for treatment.
Afterwards, you will see various therapists, psychologists, and psychiatrists to work on the psychological side of addiction.
In these sessions, you will learn more about how addiction affects the brain, why you are suffering from addiction, and how you can change your lifestyle to make it easier for you to stay sober, rather than relapsing.
 Causes of Addiction https://www.psychologytoday.com/gb/basics/addiction/causes-addiction
 Chronic Stress, Drug Use, and Vulnerability to Addiction https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2732004/