An Addictive Personality

Underneath the common conception of an addict — a person in the throes of a full-blown addiction, hunting for ways to satisfy his or her addiction — lies a common set of personality traits that predisposes a person to an addiction. That set of traits is an addictive personality, which can account for a person’s physical and psychological dependence on a substance or behavior. If you are concerned that your spouse has a one, acquainting yourself with the signs and symptoms will help you understand what is at work and whether to seek help.

What Is An Addictive Personality?

An addictive personality is a common set of psychological traits that makes someone more susceptible to addiction than others [1].

Those addictions can include drugs, alcohol, and even behaviors such as jogging, eating or pornography. The theoryAn Addictive Personality of the addictive personality is that these traits orient a person, physically and psychologically, to abuse substances or behaviors — and thus to become addicted. Research suggests that addictive personalities begin in early childhood [2].

A main culprit in the addictive personality is dopamine, the neurotransmitter that communicates pleasure in the brain [3]. As an addictive personality engages a substance or behavior, the addict’s body and brain begin to associate dopamine with that substance or behavior. Cultural, social and other psychological factors can shape and reinforce the association. Over time, the addict must meet these needs or risk going into withdrawal. The addiction only deepens with continued use.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms?

Addicts can be difficult to identify — this is indeed part of the additive psychology — and they can be dangerous to themselves and others. It’s important to understand the common indicators of one. Main signs of the disorder include:

  • Antisocial personality [4]: A sense of withdrawal from the rest of society, often stemming from personal insecurities and a fear of failure.
  • Impulsiveness [5]: An inability to control one’s behavior or think in terms of long-term consequences, often manifesting as a difficulty delaying gratification.
  • Vice substitution [6]: Ease in replacing one addiction with another, or picking up new addictions quickly after resolving old ones.
  • Edginess [7]: Jittery mannerisms and an inability to feel at ease in most social situations without the aid of a preferred “drug.”
  • Low self-esteem [8]: A low opinion of one’s self-worth.
  • Depression [9]: A persistent sense of hopelessness and despair that manifests as more than common sadness.
  • Anxiety [10]: Fear or worry about things that are unlikely or remote, and a tendency to ruminate on these fears with a noticeable impact on the person’s life.

In the case of the last four signs on this list, the addictive substance is often used to help repress or mitigate these symptoms. The tendency to use an addiction to cope, retreat and increase dopamine in the brain is part of the addictive personality. That is what makes it so dangerous.

Forms An Addictive Behavior Takes

Spouses of potential addictive personalities might also look for an addictive behavior itself. As discussed earlier, this can be more subtle and difficult to detect than a drug addiction. Other compulsive behaviors common to addictive personalities include:

  • Internet use
  • Cell phone use
  • Tanning
  • Pornography and masturbation
  • Gambling
  • Eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia)
  • Compulsive spending and hoarding
  • Exercise

While behavioral addictions such as tanning seem qualitatively different from drug addictions such as heroin use, the personality traits compelling a person to hit the tanning booth can be identical to those pulling a heroin addict toward a fix. That is the power of the addictive personality: Its objects are varied, but the powerful underlying mechanism is the same.

Seeking Help and Treatment Options

If you suspect that your spouse has an addictive personality, it’s important to begin by understanding the signs and symptoms that indicate a disorder. That is the first step in addressing a potential problem. Remember that an Addictive Personalityaddictive personality is just a common set of traits that predisposes a person to an addiction — it does not alone indicate an actual addiction. Monitoring that set of traits for signs of an addiction — and bringing it to your partner’s attention — might just be the help your spouse needs before any addiction forms.

If it turns out that your spouse is in fact, struggling with an addiction, you can seek support from professional resources, mental-health practitioners, and friends and family who are also familiar with addictive personalities. Develop a plan to discuss the issue with your spouse, and prepare the appropriate treatment options. Ultimately, addictive personalities need treatment that addresses the physical, behavioral and psychological components of addiction. No matter what the addiction, your spouse will likely experience some sort of withdrawal that requires a professional’s attention. Behavioral therapy can help replace the addiction with more productive behaviors and beliefs, while psychological counseling can explore and address the underlying problems of the addictive personality. The most important step is obtaining help sooner rather than later.

Along the way, do not neglect your own experience in the process. It can help to discuss the matter with a therapist or counselor to explore the effect your spouse’s addiction might be having on you. This person can also help you develop a plan to approach your spouse and discuss the available treatment options. Together, you can become a more aware, helpful partner to your spouse and address the challenges of an addictive personality.


[1] “Addictive Personality Disorder.” Addictive Personality Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15805/1/Addictive-Personality-Disorder.html

[2] “Even Tiny Tots Show Signs of Addictive Personalities.” Jezebel. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://jezebel.com/5905659/even-tiny-tots-show-signs-of-addictive-personalities

[3] “Dopamine and Addiction.” Dopamine and Addiction. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://serendip.brynmawr.edu/bb/neuro/neuro05/web1/isiddiqui.html

[4] “Addictive Personality Disorder Symptoms.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.livestrong.com/article/19257-addictive-personality-disorder-symptoms/

[5] “Addictive Personality Disorder.” Addictive Personality Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15805/1/Addictive-Personality-Disorder.html

[6] “Addictive Personality Disorder Symptoms.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.livestrong.com/article/19257-addictive-personality-disorder-symptoms/

[7] “Addictive Personality Disorder.” Addictive Personality Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15805/1/Addictive-Personality-Disorder.html

[8] “Addictive Personality Disorder.” Addictive Personality Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/15805/1/Addictive-Personality-Disorder.html

[9] “Addictive Personality Disorder Symptoms.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.livestrong.com/article/19257-addictive-personality-disorder-symptoms/

[10] “Addictive Personality Disorder Symptoms.” LIVESTRONG.COM. N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Dec. 2012. http://www.livestrong.com/article/19257-addictive-personality-disorder-symptoms/

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