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Do You Have an Addictive Personality?

Causes of Addiction

There are many theories around to explain why some people fall into addiction problems while others do not. These theories can be broken down into two main types – nature and nurture. The nature type arguments put forward the idea that people may be born with a genetic inheritance that predisposes them towards addictive behaviour. There is some evidence to support this idea, as addiction does seem to occur in families. Other theories focus on more nurture arguments for addiction – this is the idea that people fall into addiction because of the things that happen to them. The most likely scenario is that addiction is a mix of nature and nurture. One of the most well known of all the theories of addiction is the idea of an addictive personality.

What is an Addictive Personality?

The addictive personality refers to a set of characteristics that those who fall into addiction are likely to share. This theory is not meant to be precise, but it is just a general observation of the type of personality traits that people prone to addiction will tend to have. The characteristics of the addictive personality are not necessarily negative, and a little of some of these traits may even help people to become successful in life. It is the combination of these traits that may make it more likely that one person becomes addicted easily, while somebody else does not.

Symptoms of the Addictive Personality

The typical traits associated with the addicted personality will include:

  • The individual is prone to impulsiveness – they like to do things first and think about what the consequences of this action will be later on.
  • They find it hard to delay gratification. The individual does not see the need to wait for gratification – they want it right now and do not like the idea of having to sacrifice in order to get it.
  • This person may be prone to attention seeking behaviour.
  • This person is likely to admire non-conformity. The individual may believe that people who play by the rules, or play it safe, are boring. This person wants to do things their own way, and they have few qualms about breaking rules or social taboos in order to get it.
  • The individual may have a high tolerance for deviant behaviour. This means that they do not view law or rule breaking in the same way as most other people do. This person may look upon deviant behaviour as a form of rebellion and something to be admired.
  • Another characteristic associated with the addictive personality would be a willingness to take risks. This propensity to risk taking can be beneficial in some circumstances, but it can also mean that the individual puts their life in danger. One of the reasons that people may be prone to this type of behaviour is that they have a sense of being invincible, and this can get them into a great deal of trouble.
  • One of the most common characteristics of people who become addicted to alcohol or drugs is low self-esteem. The individual will often have low self worth before they begin taking these substances, but the process of addiction gives self-esteem a further hammering. It is due to this lack of self worth that the individual will put up with the suffering of addiction – they may believe that it is all that they deserve.
  • It is common for people who fall into addiction to suffer from symptoms of depression. The process of addiction can exacerbate this symptom as the individual becomes caught up in a vicious cycle – they abuse alcohol or drugs because they are depressed, and this makes their symptoms worse.
  • Those people who fit the profile of the addictive personality will often feel as if they have a great deal of stress in their life, and this justifies their substance abuse. When the person’s stress levels are assessed, they may be no different from other people, but the individual just feels unable to cope with it – they lack sufficient coping mechanisms. This is why some people can endure a highly stressful life and never turn to alcohol or drugs while other people with relatively modest amounts of stress may feel overwhelmed and use addiction to hide from it.
  • Those with an addiction problem will often be very insecure in their relationships. This is associated with the fact that they tend to have low self-esteem. The addicted individual may be prone to fits of jealously and have unrealistic expectations for their partner.
  • Another of the common characteristics of people who fall into addiction is that they will often feel alienated from other people. This individual may always feel like an outsider looking in but when they use alcohol or drugs it somehow makes them feel like they belong – at least in the beginning anyway.
  • This person may have antisocial tendencies.

It is not suggested that all people who fall into addiction will have all of these characteristics, but it is likely that they will have some of them.

Importance of the Addictive Personality

The addictive personality is a theory that is not meant to be taken too literally, but it can be helpful for people who are trying to break away from addiction. By knowing which of their personality traits may be driving them towards addiction the individual will be aware of where the danger is coming from. Over time the person can begin to chip away at the character flaws that drive them towards addictive behaviour – or at least tone them down to more manageable levels. The individual is not expected to eliminate all the elements of the addictive personality overnight but one of the goals of recovery is for the individual to keep on progressing, so that they put more distance between themselves and the addiction. The person will also need to be constantly aware of how these character traits may be pulling them back towards addiction.

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