These days, people talk a lot about “addictive personalities.” It is usually misunderstood or used in the wrong way. The term addictive personality brings up images of drug addicts and alcoholics, actors, and rock stars with unfortunate, outrageous behavior. But in reality, anyone could be affected. But why do certain people develop an addiction to certain things while others don’t? There are a lot of factors that can increase your risk of developing addictive behaviors. Read on to find out more about the causes and symptoms of an addictive personality disorder, treatment options, and how Behavioral Health Centers can help you.

Developing Addictive Behaviors

Addiction can be to anything—shopping, food, video games, gambling, sex, substance abuse and other behavioral addictions. While some people can walk into a store and buy the one item they’ve been watching for a month, or buy nothing, others with a shopping addiction don’t have impulse control and will find it almost impossible to leave without buying something.

Similarly, one person can stop in for a drink or two at a party and not have another one for days or longer and another person could wind up having every thought focused on when they’ll have the next drink.

Risk Factors that May Cause
an Addiction

Personalities are complicated. Although there isn’t one specific type that’s more likely to become addicted than others, there are some factors that can combine to make someone more likely to have an addictive personality. These factors include:

Genetics Factors

There could be a genetic link to addictive personalities. In fact, studies show that genetics is responsible for about half the possibility that someone will have addictive personality traits.


Obviously, someone who has never been exposed to alcohol can’t become addicted to it. In other words, even if you have an addictive personality, you can’t become addicted to a substance unless you are exposed to it.


If you have family members with addictive personalities it doesn’t mean you’re doomed to have an addiction at some time in your life. However, it increases the chances. Other factors such as the following will also play a part:

  • The friends you hang out with
  • Your education
  • Social support
  • The environment where you grew up

Mental and Emotional Health

An individual’s emotional and mental health conditions can cause a more significant likelihood of becoming addicted to something. A person with a mental illness is more likely to experience substance abuse as a way to cope with the mental or emotional disorder. Common mental health disorders that may develop addictions are:

  • Depression
  • Attention Deficit Disorder
  • Trauma
  • Bipolar Disorder

This is a common occurrence called a dual diagnosis, or co-occurring disorder.

woman suffering from low energy and depressive thoughts cause by mental health conditions

To link these things together, addiction is a medical illness and develops the same way as many other illnesses. Someone with an underlying genetic weakness or mental disorders exposed to an environment full of negative emotions and habits can lead to addictive personality disorder. With drug and alcohol addiction, common environmental factors are stress and the availability of addictive substances.

How Dopamine Plays a Role in Addiction

Although there isn’t any medical test to determine who might develop an addiction, there are certain personality traits that can make a person more liable to develop an addiction. A common factor beneath every addiction is the feeling of reward. Your brain registers all pleasures in the same way, no matter where they come from. It could be a glass of wine, a casino environment, a shopping spree, or a delicious meal.

When a person receives the feeling of reward, the brain is flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Among other things, dopamine plays a part in controlling a person’s emotions. And the right balance of dopamine is important for both physical and mental wellbeing.

woman developing addictive traits lying in bed

What Does it Mean to Have an Addictive Personality Disorder? 13 Signs to be Aware of:

  • 1


    Individuals with an addictive personality tend to obsess. Just like an alcoholic will obsess over when he’ll get the next drink or a gambling addict will obsess over the next card game.

  • 2

    Compulsive Behavior

    A person showing signs of an addictive personality will find that “enough” is never enough and will show other compulsive behaviors. These behaviors typically prevent or reduce a person’s distress related to an obsession temporarily, and they are then more likely to do and want more in the future. One more drink at happy hour. One more try to win at the scratch-off tickets. They will always have a desire for more.

  • 3


    Addiction and lying go hand-in-hand and have several layers. For example, first, the user lies to himself about having an addiction. After that, he has to lie to everyone else around him. The deeper he gets into his addiction, it’s more likely he’s going to feel the need to rest. Before long, the lies become truths to the addict and he is trapped in a cycle of lies and denial. A person with an addictive personality can also show signs of lying as well, and this would transfer into the same behavior if they become addicted.

  • 4


    The thing that the person is addicted to probably takes the top priority in their life, ahead of everything else. As a result of this, they will manipulate others to fulfill the addictive drive. They might lie or make up stories to get money or even pretend to be in love to get someone to take them out to the bars. In the same way, a person with an addictive personality will play the manipulation card for their own benefit.

  • 5

    Criminal Behavior

    Clearly, you need money to support a habitual behavior. Whether it’s gambling or drugs, if manipulation no longer works and the money runs out, a person might resort to committing crimes. Stealing money or expensive items to pawn for cash can help support the addiction. Their understanding of reality could be warped by their addiction. A person with addictive personality traits might also show criminal behavior in the same way.

  • 6
    Continuing Despite Negative Consequences and Results

    Bad outcomes could be anything from criminal behavior, not being to stay in a personal relationship, or unfaithfulness. The addictive personality overcomes the desire to stop causing negative results. This is so even when it negatively affects personal and professional
    relationships, jobs, and self-image. Once again, their understanding may be distorted. Therefore, they continue with their behavior despite the negative results.
  • 7
    Impulsive Behavior

    Acting out without thinking about the effect of your actions is impulsive behavior. Most people do have bad judgment at times but people who regularly present impulsive behaviors are showing impulsive behavior. And that can indicate an addictive personality. Studies that examined the brains of addicts found that they are more likely to make quick decisions without thinking about the long-term aftermath.

  • 8

    Not Taking Responsibility

    Not taking responsibility for their choices and outcomes is a typical trait for someone with an addictive personality. Likewise, this is also true if addiction develops. The person will continue pointing their finger at everyone else and believing that they have the problem.

  • 9

    Revolving Relationships

    The traits of someone with an addictive personality such as lying, manipulation, etc., all contribute to failed relationships. Additionally, the need for change and the need for something new also cause short-term cycling through relationships.

  • 10

    Seeking Sensation

    Similar to a person with an addiction, a person with an addictive personality frequently needs to feel the next “rush” and reward. They chase the next high and often need more of it to keep feeling good, constantly seeking new experiences. However, one problem with sensation-seeking is the continuous desire for something new and different. This can lead to trying out various drugs and alcohol and lead to substance abuse.

  • 11


    Neuroticism is the state of having personality traits or symptoms typical of someone with a neurosis (mental disturbance). This is also another possible trait of a person with an addictive personality. Those people with high neuroticism frequently respond to challenges or threats with negative reactions such as anger, sadness, anxiety, and irritability. Research has shown that people with high neuroticism are more likely to have a substance use disorder (SUD).

  • 12


    Keeping secrets is all-important for a person with an addiction. Also, it is a common trait for someone with an addictive personality. It is nearly impossible for a person’s life and habits to continue in its addictive status if it’s not kept secret.

  • 13


    The excitement of risk-taking is another common trait of a person with an addictive personality. The simple act of doing something dangerous and impulsive supplies that rush of dopamine that makes the person feel pleasure.

How Can You Avoid Becoming Addicted?

By now it’s clear that people with the risk factors for addiction may have a hard time controlling any enjoyable activity. Just when they quit one addiction, another one takes control. If you have addictive personality risk factors, try avoiding these risky behaviors:

image representing food affecting addictive behaviors

Don’t Eat for Comfort

Comfort eating is a common way to soothe yourself when you’re disappointed or stressed. And while it’s okay in moderation, your food impulse control can soon vanish, leading to obesity, food addiction, and binge eating.

Do: Soothe yourself with meditation, take a relaxing bath, and get a good night’s sleep.

woman saying no to alcohol and other environmental factors that can lead to addiction

Don’t Use Alcohol to Socialize

This is one of the top reasons heavy drinkers give for overdoing alcohol. But very easily, alcohol can become the only way to get along with people.

Do: Connect with other people through common interests or activities. When everyone else is drinking, practice strategies to refuse it.

woman with addictive personality who is hyper focused on screen time

Don’t: Be “Hyperconnected”

Checking your email or Facebook account constantly and not allowing your phone out of reach might seem normal, but they can lead to problems with internet addiction.

Do: Try to limit your non-work screen time. And be sure that you are unavailable during sleeping hours.

image showing certain behaviors like over shopping leads to addiction

Don’t Over-Shop

One of the main reasons shopaholics give for running up debts is the rush they get when they buy things that will make them a better person in their minds.

Do: Work on your self-esteem instead of buying things to boost your ego.

image showing how drug abuse can start with self-medication

Don’t Self-Medicate with Drugs

Common psychological problems that people try to self-medicate for are pain, trauma, and difficulty sleeping. There is a prescription for these problems, but prescriptions provide temporary relief that may lead to substance addiction. You may become dependent on the medication or you may seek another drug to replace the prescription.

Do: Get help for mental health issues. Although you may never overcome the problem, life will be better by letting go of the idea that the cure is in a pill.

woman prone to substance abuse thinking about using drugs to relax

Don’t Use Marijuana to Relax

If you are tense or anxious at the end of a long day, you might have found that some marijuana can help you relax. But it has a rebound effect when it wears off. Anxiety actually increases. It can also harm your motivation or trigger psychological problems.

Do: Look for safer methods of stress management and relaxation

a man struggling with his mental health wonder if addictive personality traits are curable

Don’t Believe Quitting is Too Difficult

If you have an addictive personality, you may believe that quitting everything addictive is just too hard. Maybe you went from sex to overeating, overeating to drugs, and on and on. You may think that life without excess is too boring and too normal. This is denial.

Do: Get help with your addiction. Even people with long-term addictions can get help. After you find that it is possible, you may grieve the lost years once you recover.

Don’t Wait to Get Help

It is a myth that a person has to hit rock bottom before you can get help for your addiction. You may have a personality that craves excess but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy. A healthy enthusiasm adds to life, while an addiction takes away from it.

It is a myth that a person has to hit rock bottom before you can get help for your addiction. You may have a personality that craves excess but it doesn’t have to be unhealthy and turn into addictive behaviors. A healthy enthusiasm adds to life, while an addiction takes away from it.

Behavioral Health Centers can help you find balance in your life. Our addictive personality disorder treatment specialists are experienced in treating dual-diagnosis situations, the most common cause of addictions. We have inpatient programs you can begin right away.

Of course, Behavioral Health Centers has an aftercare program, the final step. We are devoted to helping you have a successful outcome from your addictive personality treatment, and continue to long-term recovery. Waiting won’t help you in any way. Contact us now. We are available to answer your questions at any time and you can reach us here: 772-774-3872.

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Medically reviewed by:

Dr. K. Dodge, PhD, MSPH, MSW

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