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Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?

answered 07:39 PM EST, Wed November 30, 2011
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Is there such a thing as an addictive personality? I have heard this term used for a long time but I don’t know if this is a real medical term or not. I think that if it is real then I must have one. I used to smoke a ton of weed and then one day I managed to give it up – but then I got really into online gaming and WoW and that became like another addiction to me. Then I gave that up and decided to get healthy and got really into exercising and now my GF is giving me a hard time about how much time I spend every day in training; it’s almost like I’m addicted to exercise now like I used to be addicted to weed and I’m just going through life substituting one addiction for the next.

I’d like to be able to do something in moderation for once, like a normal human being – but I’m not sure how to change myself, like a leopard can’t change its spots, and being like this just seems to be the way I’m hardwired. I get into something that could be an OK thing (even weed) and then I just lose control over how much I do it until it becomes a not OK thing, and then I move onto the next thing and repeat the pattern all over again.

William Anderson Says...

Addictive Personality Disorder (Addictive Personality) is not a recognized diagnosis in medical and psychiatric officialdom, but many, including medical and mental health professionals, think it should be. It is observed by reliable reporters that some individuals have a predisposition to addiction and many think that this apparent reality should be studied and, when the predisposition is pathological, classified as a disorder in the same way that we have created diagnoses like Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder and Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I personally am in favor of officially recognizing that some people have an Addictive Personality, a greater tendency to become addicted than other people. To me, there is no doubt about this. 

First though, I think that it's important to recognize that the tendency and drive to repeat rewarding behavior is natural, an important characteristic in human beings, required for us to develop the ability to survive. We would perish if this tendency to repeat pleasurable behavior were absent.

Learning and conditioning occur when we do something and it feels good, where our brain experiences stimulation of the reward centers of our brain. A power is tapped that drives us to repeat the behavior. Eat something tasty, and you'll create a "program" that will have you seeking it, sometimes with an appetite or craving that will not be satisfied until you get it, even if you have to go to extremes to get it. Have you ever gotten a hankering for some ice cream for instance, and gotten up and into the car to go get it? Ever found yourself just reaching for something when you got home, even when you weren't hungry? We are hardwired to form habits that tickle those pleasure centers. That's why we survived, this learning or conditioning process motivating us to make efforts to engage those habits and go after those things that helped us to survive. That's normal and healthy, a natural part of us, the way we are made. Otherwise, it's easier to just lay there and not move, which would result in cessation of all life. Motivation has to do with seeking reward or pleasure, and avoiding pain and discomfort (like withdrawal symptoms).

However, sometimes this learning process creates habit and drives that are powerful to the extreme, where the habits and drive compel a person to act, even when they want to stop, even when the habit hurts instead of helps. The person is unable to control their behavior and appetites with their conscious will, where they continue doing something in defiance of their will. Here, we are talking about uncontrollable habit and addiction. And it seems to me that some people are more prone to this "super learning" than others. Their friends are able to decide what to do or stop doing, and they have no problem. The addictive person though, seems to have a problem with self-control, and with everything that is rewarding, they get carried away and have difficulty finding balance and ease. The habit controls them rather than they controlling the habit.

We are all creatures of habit with a potential to get addicted. Some have this tendency to a higher degree than others. When the habits are healthy, don't cause a problem, and the person controls this easily, it's a sign of good health. If they are unhealthy, cause problems and the person cannot control things, it's a disorder.

So yes, some people have a greater tendency to compulsive habit than others and sometimes it's a good thing. They do great work, get things done reliably without great effort, and can add and delete habits at will. They have a beneficial addictive personality. Some get hooked on everything rewarding that comes into their path and they can't control it, even when its dangerous. They have an addictive personality disorder.

If you have the one that is beneficial, great! Maybe you can fine-tune it and make it work even better, with greater self-mastery. If you have the one that makes your life a mess, you need to see an addictions professional, because without gaining this mastery, you are at the mercy of higher powers, and not the good kind.

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Page last updated Dec 02, 2011

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