We’ve all heard of the expression addictive personality, but does it exist or is it just an excuse for our stupid actions, poor choices and bad behaviours?
Is it just a case of taking responsibility for our actions?
To many people this question is not open to debate. Most people accept the notion of personal responsibility. That we have free will and should be accountable for our actions. We are capable of deciding whether something is beneficial or harmful to us.
No-one forces us to smoke a joint, take cocaine or ecstasy or inject heroin. It is us who choose to drink more than is safe, feed a caffeine craving or eat 5 chocolate bars. It is our choice to spend £200 on fruit machines, play computer games all night or watch internet porn.
However; people who do all of the above as a habit or addiction will tell you they have NO choice but to do it. They say they have an addictive personality.
You have a choice. You are not stuck. You just think yourself as being stuck. Get unstuck and call me.
Anecdotal stories and learned reports have documented that there are certain personality types, along with particular environmental factors and circumstances that may increase the chances of a dependency or addiction developing. I this an addictive personality?
The problem is that real scientific studies have failed to provide any conclusive results that there is such a thing as an addictive personality. This means that people do not have “no choice”. Although there are many different ways at looking at personality types I have chosen ones that show an increased likelihood of developing an addiction or bad habit.
The problem is that human nature is very complex and difficult to understand. We may never work out the motivations of someone chooses to do something which is self-destructive. But they can choose – they do not have “no choice”.
Risk-averse or a risk-taker?
Before we look at the personalities most common to develop addictive tendencies we will have a peek at risk factors. Very often these people will say the have no choice; as they are programmed to take risks.
- Why does someone enjoy dangerous, ‘high adrenaline’, high risk sports and other people prefer to sit at home and watch TV?
- Why does one person get a massive ‘kick’ from gambling their money and their sibling is financially prudent?
- Why do some people enjoy becoming blind drunk and lose all control while others are happy with the odd glass of alcohol or are teetotal?
‘Risk-takers’ are people who enjoy a challenge, they need instant gratification, they have new and unusual experiences. They get bored easily. The excitement and danger of something new adds to the experience. Does this mean they have an addictive personality?
‘Risk-averse’ people are over-cautious by nature. They will always ‘play it safe’ and weigh up any possible dangers, however small, before making any decision or taking action. Again these people feel there is no choice – they don’t do chancy stuff.
Someone’s lifestyle, environment and personality can all be contributing factors to developing an addiction or not. A highly stressful lifestyle, a serious life crisis such as bereavement or redundancy, a violent and/or poverty stricken upbringing be a contributing factors in forming an addiction. Addictive personality?
Stressed-Anxious Personality type
There are many different ways to define personality types. Do we ever fit that neatly into one box? I doubt it. If you want to quit your addiction, personality has zilch to do with it! These people find it difficult to cope very well during times of pressure, tension or stress. They get anxious over minor difficulties, get stressed over little things and are most likely to become withdrawn.
These people are most likely to turn to alcohol or some other substances to help them manage and cope with their difficulties.
The Passive-Aggressive Personality type
Anyone in this group will usually have an exterior ‘front’ that shows a calm and peaceful personality. Inside is a different ball game altogether because they hide their anger and then find it difficult to manage their anger after a critical point.
The Self-Punitive Personality, (Self-punishing) type
These people can hide their anger well and show an outer personality that is calm and even gentle. Again there are darker forces operating beneath the exterior. These people may self-harm and often choose substance abuse and alcohol to help them cope.
The Anti-Social Personality type
These are cluster of types of personalities. The people in this situation cannot manage to control their anger and frustration much of the time. They often have short fuses, bad tempers and like to be noticed or praised.
They will usually to turn to alcohol and drugs to help calm their emotions and frustrations.
The Immature Personality type
This group of people have a very immature outlook on life and what is and is not acceptable. They have can be childlike in their personality and indulge in childish and impulsive behaviours so will act without any thought for the consequences. In this sense they are similar to a child in that their instant needs and wants have to be met straightaway. They enjoy showing off and boasting about minor and silly things. They need to be the centre of attention – this is important so going ‘over the top’ in their behaviours is ‘normal’.
People here find it hard to limit their excessive behaviour and can frequently go ‘over the top’. Their habits and addictions follow similar patterns. This means they are going to the first person in a group to try drugs, alcohol or tobacco. They become hooked on any habit or addiction easily and enjoy the instant ‘high’ or exhilaration from their addiction. They don’t consider that their actions are harmful and may hurt others.
Live for today is their motto.
The list of personalities is by no means complete but will give you a general picture of the types of people most likely to have an addiction.
The only trait you need to change is your attitude. Once you make that commitment to change your attitude is the key to success. There are personality types but what are individual traits? Traits are individual patterns of behaviour, emotions and thoughts which form part of a personality. There are many people who display particular individual traits which are symptomatic of addiction. Addictive personality?
- an unwillingness to accept responsibility for their actions or to face up to their addiction
- compulsive or impulsive behaviours
- a tendency to blame others for their situation
- the use of substances – alcohol, tobacco or drugs to cope with stress
- the use of food to cope with problems
The behaviour of an addict is often compulsive and does not rationalise or quantify their actions and consequences. Increased and extreme repetition of actions is common as it provides feelings of being on a ‘high’ and increases adrenaline production giving the ‘feel good’ factor.
Stress is one of the leading causes of alcohol and drug addiction as it is these substances that people turn to, to help them cope. Some people manage their stress better than others and find safer methods of working it out of their system, whilst others mask their stress with substances.
Many addicts show that they are unable to accept full responsibility for their actions, which is also a sign of immaturity. They are less able to see their faults and understand the seriousness of their behaviour.
Identifying A Weakness
If you have previously overcome an addiction and recognise any of these individual traits in yourself, it is advisable to refrain from indulging in any of the activities that often lead to addiction. Many people are able to drink or gamble for example and set limits for themselves and enjoy these activities sensibly. If you believe you have an addictive personality, you are probably more likely to develop a dependency.
Though scientific research has so far, not produced any concrete evidence to support claims of an addictive personality, many confessed addicts do display similar individual traits, circumstance or background.
Gender and addiction
This section on gender and addictive personality has been drawn from various sources including my clients. So; it may not fit exactly with ‘official figures’. You will work out that in some areas gander and addiction do appear to have a correlation but in some areas it does not.
There is some gender difference between men and women when it comes to addiction. Research has shown that drug and alcohol addiction is more prevalent in men, especially single men, than women. However, the gender gap appears to be closing very rapidly mainly in the areas of young and professional women. Studies have shown that women are more likely to become addicted to painkillers and tranquillisers whereas men tend to misuse cannabis, alcohol and other drugs.
When it comes to food and chocolate problems there are far more women than men. Online gambling is becoming a major problem for teens and many women. Large numbers of women play bingo from their laptops or phones and can lose quite a lot of money over a year but do not recognise it as a gambling problem. Many teenagers, (of both sexes), and younger men are hooked on slot machines and can lose substantial amounts in a single session.
Married women tend to have the lowest addiction rates, but many do ‘need’:
- a drink every night to calm down
- 8 cups of coffee a day to keep going
- a chocolate fix 2-4 times a day
- at least 1 indulgence every day to keep ‘my sanity’
These may not be thought of as addictions but they are quite dependent on them. Men are not far behind on similar ‘not’ addictions.
According to a UN report on global health the sedative effects of tranquilisers appear to hold a greater appeal to women than men. Women are far more likely to abuse this particular class of drugs as it does not follow the normal attrition rate of other prescription psychoactive drugs.
There are similar results for painkillers. Obviously there are men addicted to both tranquilsers and pain killers.
Gender and addiction is often played on as important but in all areas both sexes have their addicts. It will surprise many people to learn that almost 40% of the people I have seen for internet porn addictions are women. So is any of it down to an addictive personality?
Genetics and Addiction
Do your genetics make you susceptible to having an addictive personality? Some studies suggest there could be a link between genetics and addiction and others suggest the opposite! It is possible that you may have inherited a gene which creates a craving for a ‘kick’ out of life so you could drawn towards certain substances that give your brain a ‘kick’.
But this could be satisfied by:
- getting an adrenaline high
- competing in sport – pushing yourself to new goals
- performing as an actor, singer, dancer, etc.
Does addictive tendencies run in families?
DNA may not be as important in addictions as our upbringing. Drug, alcohol or smoking can seem to run in some families but it does not mean that all of the family will do the same. Many people grow up in these situations and do not drink alcohol, smoke or do drugs. So genetics and addiction do not necessarily go hand in hand.
However; if your parents smoke or drink then there is a definite increased risk of you copying their behaviour. Evidence shows that if you grow up in a home where addiction is accepted as normal and actively encouraged then it can contribute as much as 60% of the risk of you developing an addiction. This is most certainly not genetics!
So; it appears that the main contributing factors include;
- learned behaviour – family and peers
- peer pressure – family and peers
- your environment – home, work social situations
Genetics and addiction; on balance really much of it can be down to your circumstances and personal choices rather than the genes you were born with.
Escapism and addiction
For many people an addiction is also an escape. Events in someone’s life are beyond their control, they are suffering abuse, have low self-esteem or many other unhappy situations. An addiction is a way of escaping and letting go of the pressure for a short time. This may be gaming for hours on end, online porn, gambling, as well as drink or drugs. In a game you can be the hero not the bullied underdog. Passing out as a way to escape may seem a good idea at the time. But it is not really escaping from anything. Is it?
To many people escapism and addiction go hand in glove – their only escape is their addiction or habit. In uncomfortable social situations having a few drinks can lower your defences so appears to boost your confidence and allow you to have fun. Alcohol can help you to be the ‘life and soul of the party’. But it soon wears off. Having a nicotine fix can give a temporary sense of relaxation and freedom from day to day concerns. But all it is doing is taking away the nicotine withdrawal symptoms.
For many people a few minutes or hours enjoyment, courtesy of a drink, smoke, gamble, game or a few cards of internet bingo can help you to cope with day-to-day stress as they are a form of escape. It can be the only thing that is enjoyable in their whole life.
Escapism and addiction affects all levels of society. Sometimes we all need to escape – it is just that some ways do appear to be better than others.