What Does “Addiction” Really Mean? Understanding Addictive Personalities

In our society, we often view addiction as a character flaw, but in reality, it is actually a mental disorder and some people are more prone to addictive behaviors than others.

This can depend on your genetics and behavioral traits. Let’s look at what an addictive personality is, how it can manifest itself, and what you can do if you or a loved one struggles with drug and alcohol addiction.

What Does “Addiction” Really Mean?

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The term “addiction” is thrown around a lot in the way we talk about commonplace things like food, TV shows, or books. People often say they are “addicted” to a certain TV series and just can’t stop watching it.

But to understand addiction and addictive personalities, it’s important to look at the clinical definition of addiction.

According to Dr. Mark Griffiths, the difference between addiction and a “healthy excessive enthusiasm” is that an enthusiasm adds to one’s life, while an addiction detracts from it.

As we know, those who struggle with addiction often let the behavior interrupt their everyday life, relationships, responsibilities, and rational behavior.

This is seen in people who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, or any other vice. As you can see, this behavior is much different than just being really into a TV show or hobby.

 

Addictive Personalities

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When understanding addictive personalities, it’s important to recognize that there is no proven connection between personality traits and addiction.

There is no one “addictive personality,” but rather a number of factors that can influence one’s likelihood of developing an addiction.

That being said, there are some common threads that researchers have found to be present in some people who get addicted to drugs or alcohol.

Individuals with the following personality traits may find it harder to moderate their behavior around addictive substances. The following are common behavioral or psychological traits that may make one more susceptible to addiction:

1. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder & Anxiety

People with OCD often have recurring thoughts, fears, and anxiety and may fixate on one thought and not let it go. They may participate in repetitive, compulsive rituals and because of this, may distance themselves from family and friends.

According to Foundations Recovery Network and DualDiagnosis.org, “25% of those who seek treatment for OCD also meet the criteria for a substance use disorder.”

In addition, “individuals who experience OCD symptoms for the first time in childhood or adolescence are more likely to develop a drug or alcohol problem, often as a way to cope with overwhelming anxiety and fear.”

This is also the case for individuals who struggle with general anxiety, not just OCD. People with anxiety may turn to drugs or alcohol to silence the ever-churning voice in their head, and this can lead to destructive behavior.

2. Depression & Bipolar Disorder

We all have down days, but for individuals struggling with depression, these feelings of sadness or despair never leave.

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If those with mental illness turn to drugs or alcohol, they may develop an addiction because they keep wanting a new fix to make them feel better.

These co-occurring disorders can lead to a dual diagnosis of both a mental health condition and addiction.

3. Adventurous Nature

We can see the connection between mental health and addiction, but there are also personality traits that lend to this behavior.

One of those is an adventurous nature. One crazy night out can easily lead to a string of crazy weekends, to repeated behavior, to addiction.

4. Genetic History

Lastly, addiction can run in the family and if an immediate family member struggled with addiction, you will want to be careful about your own behavior. Every case is different, but these addictive personalities can span generations.

Of course, there is no guarantee that people with the above characteristics will become an addict, just as there is no guarantee that all addicts share the above personality traits.

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But there is a connection between existing mental health issues, such as depression or bipolar disorder, and drug or alcohol use.

There is also a connection between those struggling with addiction and people who have had previous addicts in their immediate family or who have other conditions such as OCD.

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