Addictive personality disorder, according to a study prepared for the National Academy of Sciences, is the result of a set of personality traits which predispose certain people toward addiction; however, not all addictions can be linked back to the same set of personality factors.
In simple terms, someone with addictive personality disorder is more likely, depending on the severity of the condition, to develop an addiction—to anything.
According to Dr. Stephen Benedict-Mason, psychologist, former university professor, syndicated newspaper columnist and radio talk-show host, an addictive personality could be the reason why some people quickly become addicted to substance such as prescription medications when others do not.
“This is typically an individual with low self-esteem; an individual who feels there are people and/or things against which he is completely powerless,” Dr. Benedict-Mason told Saludify.
“People put the cart before the horse. They feel something like alcohol creates an addict. Actually, it’s more that the addict just happens to select alcohol as his addiction of choice. Most people can enjoy a social drink or a recreational drug or a religious experience and not be overwhelmed. It’s the addictive personality that gets hooked.”
Common addictions for people with the disorder include gambling, sex, food, illicit drugs, tobacco, alcohol, cults, social groups, relationships or people (stalking), exercise, the Internet and even shopping.
For someone with an addictive personality, any perceived gratifying habit can become an addiction. DARA Drug and Alcohol Rehab notes as much as 15 percent of the U.S. population is suspected of having an addictive personality.
What causes addictive personality disorder?
Benedict-Mason explains that there is more than just a genetic predisposition involved in an addictive personality. Some cultures influence how susceptible their members are to addiction; a society bound by religious beliefs and magical thinking, for example, would have addicts handing over their worldly goods to a local mystic, and a society bound by the scientific method and high tech medicine would have addicts handing over their worldly goods to a local dealer, he stated.
People with addictive personality disorder have varying degrees of the condition, and Health Guidance notes the condition is characterized by a person who spends excessive time involved in an addictive behavior. The trick is how to tell a behavior is becoming an addiction rather than just a hobby or an interest.
Signs that a person may be addicted to a certain behavior or interest, include:
- A decline in the quality of other areas of life, such as social interaction
- Restructuring of life around the addiction (relationship, food, drugs)
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Excessive money spending on the addiction
- Damaged personal and professional relationships
- Introduction of other addictive behaviors such as drug and alcohol abuse
“It’s not difficult to see an obvious case. Anyone comfortable with the notion that there are people and/or things against which he is powerless is a good candidate. A professional should spot a less obvious case when they score high on an Authoritarian scale,” Benedict-Mason told VOXXI. “It depends upon the degree to which one suffers from the disorder. At one extreme, it would demand a truly overwhelming influence to result in a serious addiction. At the other extreme, something as absurd as a sidewalk evangelist would be enough to sweep a new convert into a cult.”
While not all people with addictive personalities engage in illicit addictions, the Institute of Addiction Medicine notes 23.2 million people aged 12 or older need treatment for a substance use disorder in the United States in the course of 12 months, according to the most recent data.