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addictive personality

What is an Addictive Personality?

What is an Addictive Personality?


You may ask yourself, what is an addictive personality?

Addiction has multiple parts to it and many people state they have “addictive personalities.”

What the heck does that mean?

Do you know someone who becomes consumed with different things or people?

Do you or others you know seem to become obsessive in relationships?

Do you know someone who is compelled and seems out of control in various aspects of their life?

Do you wonder why you are out of control or do you struggle to be able to manage relationships without becoming obsessive?

Do you often find yourself going from one substance or “high” of New Relationship Energy (NRE) to another?

Big “A” vs Little “a”

These may be indicators of an “addictive personality.”

In my clinical practice, I use the “A”ddiction and “a”ddiction.

To me, “A” is the one most referred to in our society and within clinical settings and surrounds drugs, alcohol, compulsive gambling, and some schools of thought would include sex and/or food.

In that regard, I do not treat as many people with or specialize in the “A”.

To be clear, neither is more valid or important – both are equally important to focus on and treat. 

I would say I work with a lot of folks who engage in obsessive or addictive patterns that would fall under the little “a.” 

In my experience, addiction often focuses on someone’s need to numb or escape some type of emotion or experience.

This could be from trauma, anxiety, depression, dysfunctional relationships or family systems, etc.

People with “addictive personalities” often use addiction as a strategy to feel differently than they do in order to “function.” 

Whether people are experiencing “A” or “a”, both result in what I would consider a chemical reinforcement in our brain and often a physical or emotional reinforcement in our minds and bodies.

This chemical high is a major reinforcement of the strategy or the “thing” (person, drink, drug, etc) that becomes the compulsion. Does this sound like anyone you may know? 

Have you ever been this person?

In working with addiction, it would seem that most addiction comes from some level of trauma someone experienced within their life and their addiction is a way or strategy to manage this.

We so often focus on the behavior in treatment, and to be clear that can be VERY necessary, HOWEVER, I would argue that until we are able to treat what is below that behavior [and have someone understand the why and the what the pattern of behavior (or strategy)] will just continue.

Common Underlying Issues Related to “Addictive Personality”

  • Codependency
  • Trauma (physical, emotional, sexual, etc.)
  • Family members (biological) who have history of substance use (research shows genetic component)
  • Family members or community members who have substance use history
  • Common coping is avoidance
  • Narcissism or increased self-focus
  • Systemic Trauma (institutional racism, white supremacy, heteronormativity)
  • Frequently invalidated throughout life
  • External locus of control
  • Significant difficulty in self-regulation

The list of “addict personality” traits can go on and on!

Seriously, there are many more, and these are just common ones that I have noticed in our practice. 

We hope this answers your question for “what is an addictive personality?”

If you feel like this post speaks to yourself or someone you know, therapy can be a very effective way in doing this work. Various providers engage in different techniques to help people who struggle with addiction. I truly encourage people to really do the inner work to find more adaptive strategies that do not reinforce these addictive patterns. 

We are here to help at LCAT, we have various therapists who have training and understanding in all the A/a’s. Please join us on your healing journey!

YouTube page where she provides free information at The Sex Healer

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