Do Addictive Personalities Exist?

Do addictive personalities exist; and if they. do does it really matter? When people claim to have an addictive personality they are absolving themselves from responsibility for their actions.

“It is not me, I don’t choose to be like this; it is my personality that causes this behaviour”. When people claim that they have a condition which makes them do things they are inferring that it is, not their responsibility, and that nothing meaningful can be done to manage this.

From one addiction to another. Proof of addictive personality?

Some people who claim to have this in their nature do swap from one substance or behaviour to another. For some people in addiction, they address, or recover from their addiction to one thing such as alcohol but then adopt an unhealthy and obsessive activity like extreme controlled eating or excessive exercise. When looking at this change in lifestyle it is easy to see how they can adopt this label to explain their problematic coping strategies of cross addictions; mapping or changing one addiction for another. Even so, does this mean that a person is born an addict and has a condition where they will always engage in uncontrolled addictive ways?


Just as common, is moving from one substance to another. In the UK alcohol addiction is much more prevalent than any other. Many of those who are now in the midst of an alcohol addiction were initially diagnosed with an addiction to another drug. This is often a street drug such as heroin or cocaine which they used extensively some years ago.

After getting treatment they then are “cured” of this dependency but replace or swap it with another substance.

Personality trait or learned behaviour?

Initially this would indicate that someone has an addictive personality and that addictive personalities do really exist because they can be seen to move from one addiction to another. This can be more convincing as website will support this such as Wikipedia However in reality all they have done is changed the medium of their addiction whilst maintaining how they manage their mental health i.e. using substances to change how they feel.

Just because there is a pattern of behaviour does not mean it is a character trait. What is not working effectively is the strategies employed by these addicts to manage their behaviours. Just because you have changed substances for other substances or other behaviours does not mean you have addressed the reason for this behaviour. An addict adopts these behaviours to change how they feel not because they are smitten with a substance or an activity.


By adopting this idea an addict is choosing to believe that they have no choice and that there is nothing that they can do to change their situation.

This can have dangerous consequences for the addict because it is both self defeating and dis-empowering, as addiction is built on choices.

People in addiction use substances to manage how they feel on a day to day basis, to manage stress, anxiety, depression and at a deeper level how they truly feel about themselves. Fundamentally, it is this buried disliking of themselves which is the real reason for hiding from their feelings. Learning to accept yourself and like yourself is the way forward. Everything else is a distraction and displacement behaviour. 

Manage mental health instead of adopting a label.

Many people who have experienced addictive behaviours through a significant period of their lives, learn to live without these self defeating behaviours, and live without repeating these activities because they have self discovered how to live beyond addiction. What they have learned to do is manage their mental health without the counter-productive input of substances or activities which offer a short and temporary change to how they feel. They have learned to live without instant gratification and instead developed the life affirming techniques of growing their own self esteem, self reliance, self awareness and self acceptance. 

Ultimately, then, to label people as having addictive personalities is not only a mistake, but also disempowering and dangerous, compelling people to suffer long term addictions through their lives and denying addicts the opportunity to seek the skills to manage their self esteem and mental health independently without becoming dependent on substances or addictive behaviours.

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