Addictive Personality Disorder gets thrown into conversation pretty casually. One person offers it up as an excuse for being hooked on The Bachelor: I just can’t quit watching. Another person offers it up as a reason for remaining a bachelor: I just can’t quit dating.
Essentially, there are tons of people who can drink and who can smoke and who can look at pornography and who can go to casinos and never be consumed by a resulting addiction. However, those born with an addictive personality disorder are simply wired for addiction from the first drink, smoke, adult image, or hand of cards.
“Addictive personality is not an actual psychiatric diagnosis,” says Michael Weaver, MD, medical director of the Center for Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. “Personalities are very complex, and while there’s not one specific type that’s more prone to addiction than others, there are several factors that can combine to make you more likely to become addicted.”
A 1983 study prepared for the National Academy of Sciences found that “there is no single set of psychological characteristics that embrace all addictions.” However, the study did isolate a series of behaviors that were common from addiction to addiction. The following list below borrows heavily from that study’s findings.
1. They already have an addiction.
Once a person has developed a single addiction, they are more likely to become addicted to other behaviors, activities, or substances.
2. They love excitement and have a disposition toward sensation seeking.
Highly addictive people are generally up to try anything. They are the first one to raise their hand to go skydiving and the last one ready to leave the club at the end of the night. They will go home with strangers just to have a good story to tell.
3. They have a sense of social alienation and a general tolerance for deviance.
Studies indicate two main types of alcohol abusers: first is the unstable antisocial personality who drinks for excitement or sensation-seeking. The second is discussed in the next section. It’s no surprise that sensation seeking addicts would find themselves with fewer social ties. When a person hops from passion to passion, hobby to hobby, job to job, that person doesn’t develop lasting bonds.
4. They have a sense of heightened stress.
Moderation is foreign to highly addictive people. The need to soothe away the stress becomes so great that an addiction becomes preferable to living with the anxiety and this type of addict is usually referred to as the anxious, depressed neurotic who may drink to kill his or her psychological pain.
5. They are impulsive and have difficulty with delayed gratification.
People with addictive personalities act without considering consequences. They will keep drinking even when they know they have to be at work in the morning; they will agree to go out and party even if they have promised their significant other that they will cut back.
6. They quickly develop tolerance.
In a New York Times story, Dr. Charles P. O’Brien, a committee member and chief of psychiatry and head of the addiction research center at the Veterans Administration Medical Center in Philadelphia, notes that people prone to addiction “progressively needed greater quantities of stimulation to satisfy their needs and developed symptoms of withdrawal when deprived of the addictive activity. He also noted that addicts to one activity would often switch to another when deprived of opportunity to participate in the original addiction.”
7. They place a high value on non-conformity combined with a weak commitment to goals.
As addicts tend to be impulsive, it is almost impossible for them to stay focused on goal-setting. Instead, they develop personalities centered on being unique because they lack the follow-through to excel in the goal oriented ways celebrated by society.