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View Full Version : Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?


digital goldfish
4th May 2004, 08:19 AM
This is an argument i've had with my girlfriend a number of times. She has a degree in psychology from a good university, so i don't really feel i can disagree with her, but i do anyway. I contend that there is such a thing as an addictive personality. I know people who go from one addiction to another, and are certainly more inclined towards an addiction to something, than others. She contends there is no such thing in psychology, and it's merely coincidence. I know we have a lot of very smart people on this forum, so i thought i'd get a few different opinions..

drkitten
4th May 2004, 08:36 AM
Originally posted by digital goldfish
This is an argument i've had with my girlfriend a number of times. She has a degree in psychology from a good university, so i don't really feel i can disagree with her, but i do anyway. I contend that there is such a thing as an addictive personality. I know people who go from one addiction to another, and are certainly more inclined towards an addiction to something, than others. She contends there is no such thing in psychology, and it's merely coincidence. I know we have a lot of very smart people on this forum, so i thought i'd get a few different opinions..

There are certainly personality traits that correlate strongly with certain kinds of addictive behavior. In this regard, she's wrong. She's correct that there's no accepted diagnostic criteria or defined syndrome (as listed in the DSM) and that the predictive power of these traits is awfully weak.

Kluwer has a pretty good book out called "The Addiction-Prone Personality" that might be a better source than the JREF forum.

Hellbound
4th May 2004, 08:40 AM
Good question.

I think I'd agree with your gf that there is no such thing as an addictive personality. However, let me explain my theory (based on laychology...the layman's psychology ;) ).

I think it has more to do with learned behavior and depression. A person gets addicted to one thing, say a particular drug. Use of this drug brings relief of a sort while the user is high (i.e.-they feel better or at least are seperated from a reality that they feel is hard, wrong, or unpleasant). However, most users will eventually develop a tolerance for the drug, so it's effects are lessened. Not to mention that problems still mount up while the person is using, rather than go away. Thus, they look for something else to bring back the thrill. The same thing could apply to other addictions, as well...a sex addiciton can bring feelings of danger and/or excitement, or can simulate afeeling of being loved. A shopping addiciton brings the thrill of something new, something that becomes ones own (a control issue, possibly). A gambling addiciton brings about the excitement and thrill of betting, and euphorioa when one wins. A drama addiction satisfies a need for attention, to be the focus of those around one. Of course, most addictions tend to cause problems for people, depression sets in, and people look for more avenues to cope.

In other words, I see it as more of a downward spiral than a personality trait. If one can break the chain...successfully beat an addiciton and develop better methods to cope with the things that drove them to addiction int he first place, the spiral can be stopped.

digital goldfish
4th May 2004, 08:41 AM
Originally posted by drkitten


There are certainly personality traits that correlate strongly with certain kinds of addictive behavior. In this regard, she's wrong. She's correct that there's no accepted diagnostic criteria or defined syndrome (as listed in the DSM) and that the predictive power of these traits is awfully weak.

Kluwer has a pretty good book out called "The Addiction-Prone Personality" that might be a better source than the JREF forum.

Thanks.. I thought it might provoke some debate as well though.. lol

So she's being pedantic, basically. I'm familar with the DSM, but didn't realise it was the 'definitive source' for diagnosis.

That book appears on Amazon, but says it's incredibly hard to find (and is 40). Any other suggestions?

qII
4th May 2004, 08:41 AM
she's as wrong as wrong can be. tell her i told her so.

digital goldfish
4th May 2004, 08:44 AM
Originally posted by Huntsman
Good question.

I think I'd agree with your gf that there is no such thing as an addictive personality. However, let me explain my theory (based on laychology...the layman's psychology ;) ).

I think it has more to do with learned behavior and depression. A person gets addicted to one thing, say a particular drug. Use of this drug brings relief of a sort while the user is high (i.e.-they feel better or at least are seperated from a reality that they feel is hard, wrong, or unpleasant). However, most users will eventually develop a tolerance for the drug, so it's effects are lessened. Not to mention that problems still mount up while the person is using, rather than go away. Thus, they look for something else to bring back the thrill. The same thing could apply to other addictions, as well...a sex addiciton can bring feelings of danger and/or excitement, or can simulate afeeling of being loved. A shopping addiciton brings the thrill of something new, something that becomes ones own (a control issue, possibly). A gambling addiciton brings about the excitement and thrill of betting, and euphorioa when one wins. A drama addiction satisfies a need for attention, to be the focus of those around one. Of course, most addictions tend to cause problems for people, depression sets in, and people look for more avenues to cope.

In other words, I see it as more of a downward spiral than a personality trait. If one can break the chain...successfully beat an addiciton and develop better methods to cope with the things that drove them to addiction int he first place, the spiral can be stopped.

That's an interesting point! The people i know persoanlly, have a tendency to over-indulge in whatever new fad comes about, but some of them have had drug addictions at some point in the past, and while they have quite these, could then, as you say, be inclined to throw themselves in to ther stuff, in order to reproduce that high, and intensity. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a personality trait, as i know others who have had no drug problems, they just over-indulge, and become obsessed with whatever new fad..

Pantastic
4th May 2004, 08:46 AM
I would agree with drkitten on this one. There is no specifically defined 'addiction personality', but there are people who seem particularly prone to addiction. What the reason for this is, no one yet seems to know.

Hellbound
4th May 2004, 08:54 AM
Originally posted by digital goldfish


That's an interesting point! The people i know persoanlly, have a tendency to over-indulge in whatever new fad comes about, but some of them have had drug addictions at some point in the past, and while they have quite these, could then, as you say, be inclined to throw themselves in to ther stuff, in order to reproduce that high, and intensity. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's not a personality trait, as i know others who have had no drug problems, they just over-indulge, and become obsessed with whatever new fad..

Well, like I said, it doesn't have to be limited to just drugs. The new fad thing could just be from a profound desire to fit in, a quest for popularity. I think that a term like "addictive personality" is simply too broad to be meaningful, because underlying traits may be different depending on the type of addiction: A person may be craving escape, attention, feelings of control, love, belonging, or whatever. Each of these can lead to addicitons of a certain type (respectively drugs/alcohol, drama, abuse, sex, fashion/fads). And, of course, once the addiciton fails (the drugs stop working as well, the credit cards run out, the drama queen gets ignored, the abuser loses his/her object of abuse, the sex addict gets a reputation and can't get more dates) they may turn to other types of addiciton as a panacea or to replace the thrill.

I am a layman though (unless you count a semester of psychology in high school and a semester in college), so this is a completely uneducated opinion :)

digital goldfish
4th May 2004, 08:56 AM
Originally posted by Huntsman


Well, like I said, it doesn't have to be limited to just drugs. The new fad thing could just be from a profound desire to fit in, a quest for popularity. I think that a term like "addictive personality" is simply too broad to be meaningful, because underlying traits may be different depending on the type of addiction: A person may be craving escape, attention, feelings of control, love, belonging, or whatever. Each of these can lead to addicitons of a certain type (respectively drugs/alcohol, drama, abuse, sex, fashion/fads). And, of course, once the addiciton fails (the drugs stop working as well, the credit cards run out, the drama queen gets ignored, the abuser loses his/her object of abuse, the sex addict gets a reputation and can't get more dates) they may turn to other types of addiciton as a panacea or to replace the thrill.

I am a layman though (unless you count a semester of psychology in high school and a semester in college), so this is a completely uneducated opinion :)

Well, i think it holds up to scrutiny, so i appreciate the opinion.. :-)

epepke
4th May 2004, 09:02 AM
"Addictive Personality" is a folk medicine concept. It's probably more correct than it is misleading, though.

Corallinus
4th May 2004, 09:30 AM
I would agree with the addictive personality traits and this could well correspond with the work that was done on personality types. The type A and type B personality.

There are certain things that can make people more prone to becoming addicted to certain things or substances and this goes back to nature/nurture again.

cbish
4th May 2004, 12:39 PM
How about a genetic disposition? How about a biochemical one?

Corallinus
4th May 2004, 01:03 PM
That is what I meant by nature/nurture really and this takes into account both genetic and biochemical predispositions.

Dancing David
4th May 2004, 02:29 PM
Hey Olaf, my challenge awaits you!

Is there an addictive personality, if there is it is called Poly Substance Dependant, in that they show no particular preferencxe for any substance.

I have to say NO>

There are these things that are called :mood altering behaviors.

This includes substance use and a wide variety of other things, like gambling , shopping and shoplifting.

But there is such a wide variety of things that can lead to addiction that I think it would be hard to categorise them all under a personality label.

What makes addictions tick? That is a whole library right there. I truely beleive that most people who are addictive will develop a primary modd altering behavior, so i say no.

(Just my 3 cents)

Dancing David
4th May 2004, 02:34 PM
Originally posted by Corallinus
I would agree with the addictive personality traits and this could well correspond with the work that was done on personality types. The type A and type B personality.

There are certain things that can make people more prone to becoming addicted to certain things or substances and this goes back to nature/nurture again.

But do they really fall into the cluster of behaviors that make for a personality trait?

1. Trauma, a very good indicator of later addiction, especialy if internalised.
2. Ongoing pain of either the exogenous or endogenous.
3. Biological predisposition.
4. Family and learned skills.
5. On going behavioral reinforcement of maladaptive coping skills.

I don't really see any consistent traits in people who are addicts, not the way there are with anti-social or narcissistic or dependant personalities. I have met too many addicts with different styles to beleieve in a addicvtive personality.

The only trait I could come up with is ; intense personal discomfort.

Zombified
4th May 2004, 02:47 PM
There have been studies relating various additions to chemical pathways in the brain related to pleasure and reward. I could imagine that if that mechanism was "broken" in such a way to make a given person more likely to abuse, then there might be a whole spectrum of potential addictions, as long as they all involved the same brain mechanism.

This might not have anything to do with personality, unless the individual's abnormal sense of psychological reward influences their personality.

I think part of the confusion around "addictive personality" is because so many things are considered "addictions" these days, and they might not all be the same thing after all (that is, even if they are all compulsive and self-destructive, there may be different mechanisms for getting hooked.)

Felice
4th May 2004, 03:46 PM
I think most people have a little misconception about addiction. In my experience most addicts smoke / drink / whatever not to feel good, but rather to avoid feeling bad.

That is, I never had a cigarette to make me feel good, I just really didn't want to have withdrawl symptoms :)

cbish
4th May 2004, 05:33 PM
Zombified wrote:
I think part of the confusion around "addictive personality" is because so many things are considered "addictions" these days, and they might not all be the same thing after all

I think this is an excellent point that needs to be defined. What are we talking about. Are we talking about an over active reponse to chemicals ie: narcotics, alcohol, nicotine? Or behavior; gambling, shopping, exercise? I think there is a tremendous difference even though gambling might release endophins or something like that.

I think the response to chemicals is a genetic characteristic. I know there have been studies (I don't have links) that suggest this. Antedoctally, it seems to be true.

rockoon
4th May 2004, 06:25 PM
Originally posted by cbish
Zombified wrote:


I think this is an excellent point that needs to be defined. What are we talking about. Are we talking about an over active reponse to chemicals ie: narcotics, alcohol, nicotine? Or behavior; gambling, shopping, exercise? I think there is a tremendous difference even though gambling might release endophins or something like that.


Narcotics/etc.. these are addictive all by themselves. Personality not required.

Prospero
4th May 2004, 09:59 PM
Originally posted by digital goldfish
She has a degree in psychology from a good university, so i don't really feel i can disagree with her, but i do anyway.

It's good that you disagree. She's citing Behaviorist theory that posits everything is black and white as far as behavior is concerned; for every input, there is a repeatable, non-changing output. Basically, we're all machines. Most universities don't teach this as it has been shown to be largely insufficient in explaining many phenomena (they have a very hard time coming up with consistent evidence for it). Addictive personalities exist as a biological function. Native Americans don't tend to be alcoholic because it's fun; they're hardwired to be more susceptible to the addictive quality of alcohol. There hasn't been extensive testing regarding a genetic link to other drugs due mainly to the illegal nature of the drugs, but as a geneticist with a psychology background, I'm fairly certain that there's a genetic susceptibility to opiates (morphine, etc, which act as natural neurotransmitters). I wouldn't be surprised to learn of other genetic susceptibilities.

Dancing David
5th May 2004, 08:57 AM
Prospero,
I had an instructor who said that addicts were demonstrated to have low levels of endorphins and therefore were prone to addiction to compensate for thier irratibility.(It was Dan White at the U of Illinois who said this, I don't know if it was his research or not)

I think the issue comes down to 'addictive personality'. There is certainly a beleif in the biological basis of addiction. But I beleieve there are likely a wide variety of reasons that people engage in no substance related mood altering behaviors.

Is there a biological basis for 'engaging in mood altering behaviors with negative consequences' would be a much harder issue.