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Can You Really Have an Addictive Personality?

There is a popular idea of a an addictive personality. This is the idea of a type of person who is prone to excess and obsession. He doesn’t take up baking; he opens a bakery. He doesn’t have a drink; he has 20. For someone with an addictive personality, moderation is never an option. This kind of personality may exist, but it’s not the only kind of addictive personality. Belief in one kind of addictive personality may be misleading and counterproductive.

There are many factors in addiction and everyone who struggles with addiction probably has a unique combination of these factors. They include certain genetic factors–a fairly large array, actually–childhood neglect or trauma, also called adverse childhood experiences, mental health issues, especially anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and schizophrenia, and even IQ.

The commonality in addiction tends not to be one kind of personality or one particular trait so much as extreme traits. For example, if one person is impulsive, he may be more likely to try more addictive drugs with little regard for the possible consequences. If he does become addicted, his impulsiveness makes it much harder to get sober.

Consider on the other hand, someone who is extremely risk averse and neurotic. He may be plagued by embarrassing memories, or paralyzed by social interaction. He might use drugs and alcohol despite his risk aversion as a way of self-medicating. He may have plenty of self-control and forethought but feel like quitting would impair his ability to function. These two personalities are nearly opposite, but both are linked with a higher risk of addiction.

If there were an addictive personality, we would expect hardly anyone to have only one addiction. In reality, that number is closer to half. Half is still a lot, but it’s worth asking why half of people with “addictive personalities” only have one addiction. Part of the answer may be serial addictions. This happens when someone tries to break one addiction and ends up transferring to another addiction.

This may not indicate an addictive personality, exactly, but rather the continuation of thinking patterns created by the addiction itself. Once you become addicted to something, you have a physical dependence and usually a learned behavior around avoiding certain kinds of pain. If you quit one addiction without addressing the underlying causes, you are likely to relapse or transfer to another addiction. From the outside, someone may shrug and say you have an addictive personality when in fact you have a pain that needs to be addressed.

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, Gardens Wellness Center can help you detox and decide on a treatment strategy. Call us today at 844-325-9168 or email us at to learn more.