An Addictive Personality

Many have wondered if there is an “addictive personality.” Whether an addictive personality exists has been debated for years. If there is such a thing, does an addictive personality cause addictive behavior or is it the result of addiction?

After many years of research, the theory of an addictive personality is not supported by experts; nevertheless, the notion of an addictive personality persists. Certain personality traits continue to be associated with addicted individuals.

These associations have kept alive the idea that personality may be a causative factor in addictions. Examples of these personality traits include:

  • Impulsiveness and problems delaying gratification

  • Enjoyment of risk-taking and seeking sensationalism

  • Pride about being a nonconformist and devaluation of typical achievement goals put forth in society

  • Social isolation and problems connecting with others in meaningful relationships

  • Consistent feelings of anxiety and problems managing stress on a regular basis Demonstration of antisocial traits such as not caring how one's actions affect others

  • Compulsive behaviors

  • Manipulation and self-centeredness

  • Dependency on others

Again, whether these characteristics compose an “addictive personality” or whether there are other explanations that account for these qualities has yet to be definitively determined.


The complexity of factors that combine to cause addictions are reflected in a formula described by Dennis C. Daley in his book, Addiction and Mood Disorders. His formula is: Biology + Psychology + Family Influences + Social Influences + Alcohol/Drugs = Addiction.

A valid observation regarding the traits of an “addictive personality” is that they could also be symptoms of various psychiatric disorders. Impulsiveness is a hallmark feature of ADHD; obsessive-compulsive disorder and generalized anxiety disorder also include some of these qualities.

One cannot exclude the personality disorders, either. Antisocial personality disorder with attention focused on meeting one's own needs or wants regardless of the effect on others has long been associated with addictive behaviors as well. Individuals with borderline personality disorder are commonly known to seek out the sensational and take excessive risks.

Although an addicted person may exhibit a unique personality profile, there may also be underlying psychiatric problems that are compatible with the use of addictive substances and behaviors.

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