What Are The Signs Of An Addictive Personality Disorder?

Updated July 02, 2020

Medically Reviewed By: Laura Angers

Part of what makes each of us unique and special are the things we are passionate about in life. Life would be boring if everyone liked the same things. What if everyone liked baseball, gardening, and cars and nothing else? Ok, of course, that’s an exaggeration, but it makes the point that if we were all the same, we would like all sort of look the same. What about football, art, boats? The list goes on and on, and it’s in the differences of our hobbies and the nuances in each one that sparks conversations, allows us to teach others, and can forge strong relationships. Having a hobby or a great passion for something is a powerful and healthy thing. It keeps you excited about life; it makes you look forward to tomorrow, next year, and the next decade. It keeps you mentally healthy and strong.

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But when something you love negatively interferes with your life, there may be a problem. Do you enjoy shopping to the extent that you have to have a new outfit every day? Do you like food, or are you addicted to food? Is the visit to the casino a rare occurrence, or are you going every day, sometimes missing work and time with family, and choosing money over bills? If “I like to” has turned to “I must do” or “I must have,” then there might be a problem with an addictive personality disorder.

What Is An Addictive Personality Disorder?

Having an addictive personality disorder is more common than people may think. And it’s more harmful than people may believe as well. Often, personality disorders, including addictive personalities, lead to addiction.

Personalities are very complex, and while there’s not one specific personality type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make a person more likely to become addicted, including genetics, family history of addiction, having another addiction, the need for excitement or thrill, impulsivity, or having difficulty with quitting. One common factor underlying every addiction is the feeling of reward, which is experienced in the brain as chemical dopamine is released, and, in turn, makes a person feel rewarded and satisfied.

What Are The Signs Of An Addictive Personality Disorder?

Some signs of an addictive personality disorder are:

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  • Always Wanting And Needing More: It seems like it’s never enough for a person with an addictive personality disorder. It doesn’t help that we live in a world where enough is never enough. America, although prosperous, is also, in its fruitfulness, a place where anything can be bought over and over again. A person with an addictive personality disorder is never satisfied with just one drink, which can lead to substance use disorders. They rarely buy just one lottery ticket or have just one serving of dessert. Their thirst for the thing they are addicted to is never quenched.
  • Continuing Despite Negative Outcomes: A person with an addictive personality disorder will likely continue with their addictive traits despite negative consequences. For example, a person with an addictive personality disorder who likes gambling will most likely continue spending money on gambling despite having checks bounce or bills unpaid. Or a person who loves to shop might continue shopping every day despite being late on their mortgage.
  • Inability To Follow Rules: A person with an addictive personality disorder not only cannot follow other’s rules, but they have their own set of rules which correspond to their needs. For example, a person who loves alcohol might have their own rules that state that they can drink as much as they want, wherever they way, and during any time of the day. Rules normally don’t apply to them, like sneaking in alcohol into venues that prohibit it.
  • Not Being Able To Stop: Someone with addictive personality traits has difficulty knowing when to stop. Their need supersedes all else, including their ability to stop. For example, a person who tends to food might continue to indulge even after they’re stuffed. The reward system is in full force as the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine floods the brain. The last thing on the mind of a person with an addictive personality disorder is stopping the good feelings they’re receiving.
  • Obsessing: Someone with an addictive personality disorder is obsessed with whatever their need is. Nearly every thought that runs through their mind is fixated on getting the next high off of the very thing they indulge in. While at work, they might be consistently thinking of when work is over, they can go drinking; furthermore, the obsessive thoughts might negatively affect their quality of work. Or maybe they’re getting ready for bed and all along obsessing about going to the casino instead.
  • Relationships Are Affected: Because of their behaviors, a person with an addictive personality disorder often has strained relationships. Friendships could be broken, marriages destroyed, and family relationships hurt. Many times, even the breaking of the relationships is not enough to change the negative behavior of a person, an addictive personality disorder. What they’re addicted to overrules anything in their personal or professional life.
  • Secrecy: Many people with addictive personality traits feel shame for their behavior and mental health condition. It’s difficult to admit that one is obsessed with something to the point of it greatly and negatively affecting them. They see their friends and family easily stop at two drinks or buying just one dress and feel shame that they can’t do the same. As a result, people with an addictive personality disorder often hide their addictive traits. They might sneak in bags of clothes into the house or hide the bottles of beer somewhere where no one can find it.

There are plenty of ways in which one can work to overcome the effects of addictive personality traits. Here are some:

Journal: Journaling is a great way to get the subjective chaos that is swirling around in your mind objectively on paper. There is something very healing and revealing when you sit down in a quiet setting and begin journaling your thoughts. Be completely honest about your feelings. Is there regret? Shame? What do you feel when the obsessive thoughts arise? Journaling for mental health can manage anxiety, reduce stress, and help you cope with any depressive thoughts you might be experiencing. It also helps to prioritize problems, fears, or concerns; it helps to track any day-to-day symptoms you might have (which will be helpful to revisit if those symptoms come up again) so you can better control them. It also provides you with an avenue to express positive traits and attributes about yourself.

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Talk With Someone About It: Talking about your feelings to someone you trust can be cathartic – giving you a sense of relief. Maybe someone you’re speaking with has been through the same things as you, and they understand. Just the mere fact that someone else “gets it” brings quick comfort. Talking with someone else can bring up new and different solutions. Maybe they can think up of something you would have never thought of. Maybe they’ve been through the same situation, and they were able to conquer it with a solution that is new to you. Also, just hearing yourself talk brings healing. Similar to journaling, taking your thoughts and verbalizing them shines a different light of them.

Give Yourself Grace: You’ve probably been through a lot of mixed emotions and feelings, many of which may have been suppressed. Instead of feeling the deep stuff, you might have eaten instead. Other painful and shameful feelings may have been anesthetized by compulsive shopping and gambling. And now many of those painful feelings might be rising to the surface. As a result, the last thing you want to do is be hard on yourself. Give yourself grace. Forgive yourself and let what has happened to go. It’s now time to move forward toward healing, and the best thing you can give yourself is grace.

Take Care Of You: You might be thinking that all along you’ve been selfishly taking care of your needs above any others, so why do you deserve to take care of yourself? On the contrary, this is the perfect time to take care of yourself. Just be sure to take care of yourself in a healthy way, and be aware of any addictive personality traits that could lead to addictions. If you’re dealing with an eating disorder that arose from an addictive personality disorder, then instead of eating just to eat, or eating to mask negative feelings, choose instead to eat purposefully. Eat healthy foods that will give you a sense of calm and a rejuvenating spirit. Try herbal teas like peppermint, chamomile, lemon balm, or passionflower. Take long baths more often, take a walk, or go to the movies every so often. Replace the obsessive desires you had before with healthy ones.

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If you want more information about what an addictive personality disorder is, the symptoms of an addictive personality, addiction treatment, or any other mental health-related topic, the licensed mental health professionals at BetterHelp can help you. They are available 24/7, seven days a week, to answer any questions you have.


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