13 Signs You Might Have An Addictive Personality

Medically reviewed by Arianna Williams, LPC, CCTP
Updated May 14, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team
Content warning: Please be advised, the below article might mention substance use-related topics that could be triggering to the reader. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, contact SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). Support is available 24/7. Please see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

The term “addictive personality” is often widely misunderstood and incorrectly used. A person who has traits associated with an addictive personality is not guaranteed to develop an addiction of any kind. However, those living with addiction often have many of these traits, which can include sensation-seeking, risk-taking, neuroticism, and impulsive behavior. If you currently have an addiction or think you may have addictive personality traits, it can be helpful to speak with a licensed mental health professional to work through any concerns or challenges you may be facing. You might choose to connect with a local therapist or match with one via an online therapy platform.

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A note on addiction

Please note that people can become addicted to nearly anything, not just traditionally addictive substances. It can be possible for someone to become addicted to shopping, food, video games, gambling, social media, and sex, among other possibilities. A person could even become addicted to anxiety. 

An addiction can be defined as a compulsive habit that you continue to do despite negative consequences, and that isn’t exclusive to addictive substances.

While some people can walk into a clothing shop and buy the one pair of jeans they’ve been eyeing for a month, or walk out without any purchase at all, others with a shopping addiction might find it almost impossible to go in without buying something every time. Similarly, while one person might be able to stop after a beer or two at a barbeque and not have another drink for days or weeks, another may only be able to think about the next time they’ll be able to indulge.

In general, personalities are very complex. While there’s not necessarily one personality type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there can be several factors that may combine to make someone more likely to become addicted. However, these factors do not guarantee that someone will develop an addiction. 

Genetics

Studies show that there is likely a genetic component to addiction. In fact, research has shown that genetics may be responsible for about half the likelihood of someone developing an addiction.

Environmental factors

Many other factors, such as the friends you spend time with, your education, your social support, and the environment you grew up in, can all play a part in whether addictive personality traits eventually contribute to an addiction. 

Addiction can be a medical illness, and it typically develops in the same way as many other illnesses. A person with an underlying genetic vulnerability can be exposed to an environment that may bring on the illness. In the case of substance use disorders, common environmental factors often include stress and the availability of the addictive substance.

Mental and emotional health

Poor mental and emotional health can contribute to the development of an addiction. A person with untreated anxiety, for example, may be more likely to turn to substances to relax. It can be vital to note that this usually has the opposite effect and can exacerbate mental illness.

Exposure

Sometimes, people live in environments where a certain addiction is considered normal. If all of a person’s family members frequently drink alcohol, for example, then alcohol may always be readily available at the house, and heavy drinking might become so normalized that a person can slip into addiction without realizing it. 

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13 potential signs of an addictive personality

There may be no medical test to determine whether a person may eventually develop an addiction, but there can be specific personality traits that might make someone more prone to developing an addiction. Again, this does not necessarily mean that a person with these traits will certainly develop an addiction.

One common factor underlying nearly every addiction can be the feeling of reward. The brain typically registers all pleasures in the same way, whether they originate with a cold beer after work, a shopping spree, or a delicious meal. When a person experiences the feeling of reward, the brain is typically flooded with the neurotransmitter dopamine. One of the parts dopamine plays may be controlling a person’s emotions. The right balance of dopamine can be vital for both physical and mental well-being.

Here are some possible signs of an addictive personality:

1. Obsession

A person with an addictive personality may tend to obsess. Just like someone with an alcohol use disorder might obsess over their next drink, or someone addicted to gambling might obsess over when they can go to the casino to play the slots, a person with an addictive personality can be likely to obsess over certain things as well.

2.  Always wanting more

For a person living with addiction, “enough” may never be enough. Whether it’s one more online shopping spree, one more chance to win the lottery, or a few cocktails during lunch hour, they tend to have a desire for more. The same frequently holds true for many who exhibit addictive personality traits.

3.  Lying

Addiction and lying can go hand-in-hand and are often multilayered. First, the person with an addiction may lie to themselves about having an addiction. As a result, they might also have to lie to everyone else around them. Before long, the lies might become truths to them, and they can become trapped in a vicious cycle of lying and denial. A person with an addictive personality may also have the tendency to lie.

Addictions can become expensive. Whether it’s buying clothes or gambling, if money runs out, a person might resort to committing crimes such as stealing money, stealing expensive items to pawn for cash, or forging checks to continue to fund their addiction. Their perception of reality could be skewed by their addiction, and therefore, they might justify criminal behavior. Although criminal behavior doesn’t always point to addiction, it can be an addictive personality trait in some cases.

4. Continuing despite negative outcomes

Those living with addiction may experience negative outcomes, such as losing their job, going through divorce, or failing to provide for their families. However, it can be extremely difficult to overcome addiction, which may mean an individual may continue their potentially harmful behavior even after experiencing negative outcomes. A person with addictive personality traits may also have a tendency to continue behaviors that bring about consequences.

5. Impulsive behavior

Impulsive behavior can refer to acting without thinking about the impact of your behavior. Although most everyone has poor judgment at times, a person who regularly engages in this type of behavior may have overall impulsive tendencies, which can be indicative of an addictive personality. Studies that looked at the brains of people with addictions found they’re usually more likely to make spontaneous decisions without considering the long-term consequences.

6. Not taking responsibility

Not taking accountability or responsibility for choices and results may also be a common trait of someone with an addictive personality. This might hold true if addiction develops, whereby the person might blame others for having problems instead of looking at their own actions.

7. Revolving relationships

The traits of someone with an addictive personality can contribute to failed relationships in some cases. In addition, an impulsive need for change or something new can also lead to short-lived, revolving relationships.

8. Sensation-seeking

A person with an addictive personality might need to feel the next “rush” and the reward. They might look for the next “high” and often need more of it to keep the good feelings flowing. A person who is sensation-seeking can be seen as one who may constantly seek out new experiences and new sources of adrenaline rushes. One potential problem with sensation-seeking can be the continuous desire for something different and new. This may contribute to experimentation with various substances, which can sometimes lead to substance use disorder and other challenges.

9. Neuroticism

People with high neuroticism, which can be a trait associated with addictive personalities, often respond to challenges or threats with emotions like anger, sadness, anxiety, and irritability. Research has suggested that people with high neuroticism may be more likely to develop a substance use disorder.

10. Secrecy

Keeping secrets is sometimes critical in order for a person with an addiction to continue their addiction. Secrecy can also be a common trait for a person with an addictive personality. 

11. Risk-taking

The thrill and excitement of risk-taking can be another common trait of people with addictive personalities. The mere act of doing something impulsive and dangerous can provide a rush of dopamine that can lead to pleasure.

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How therapy may help

Whether you are living with addiction or believe you may have addictive personality traits, speaking with a licensed therapist can be helpful in guiding you toward the type of life you wish to live and addressing any challenges you may be experiencing.

Benefits of online therapy

Are you interested in trying therapy, but worried about taking the time off work and maintaining appointments? Online therapy often makes it easy to check into video calls and online chats with licensed mental health professionals. It can be possible to work with a BetterHelp therapist from any location with an internet connection.

Effectiveness of online therapy

Online therapy can be effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including various types of addiction. A systematic review of multiple studies stated that “Internet-based therapies for addictions are effective in achieving positive behavioral changes”.

Takeaway

Some people may have genetic and personality factors that can make them more likely than others to develop addictions. However, many people learn how to control these impulses and even use them to contribute to constructive and healthy behavior. For example, if someone recognizes that they may have addictive personality traits, they may choose to completely avoid potentially addictive activities and forgo substance use, even in moderation, which can be wonderful for a person’s health. Someone who notices they have an addictive personality might also choose to put their traits like obsessiveness or sensation-seeking toward habits like working out consistently, maintaining a demanding work schedule, reading, or cooking and eating nutritious food. For guidance in overcoming addiction or using addictive personality traits to achieve your goals, you might consider working with a therapist online or in person.
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