Addictive Personality – Misunderstood & Under Diagnosed

An addictive personality will consistently engage in excessive risk-taking and sensation-seeking behaviors that typically lead them develop addictions to drugs, alcohol, food, gambling, pornography and/or sexual activities. Although the DSM-5 does not list the addictive personality as one of the 10 primary personality disorders, psychologists believe that the strong compulsion for these personality types to deliberately pursue extremely stimulating, sometimes dangerous situations are desperate attempts to counteract their inability to experience “good” feelings.

Addictive Personality vs Addictive Personality Disorder

Someone with an addictive personality may not actually develop an addiction but exhibit traits that make them prone to becoming addicted to a behavior or substance. Alternately, those diagnosed with an addictive personality disorder have become addicted or are addicted to substances and/or behaviors. They may have been through several rehabilitation programs and relapsed repeatedly. Personality traits associated with addictive personalities include nonconformity, deviation from social norms, alienation and impulsivity.

Characteristics of an addictive personality disorder (APD) involve:

  • Persistent addictions to substances/behaviors
  • Emotional instability/feelings of depersonalization and derealization
  • Deficiencies in coping skills and dealing productively with stressful situations
  • Claiming to be sick all the time or having a chronic disorder with no evidence to back up their claims

Many addictive personality/addictive personality disorder traits are similar to those defining borderline personality disorder.

Tests For Addictive Personality

Mental health professionals qualified to diagnose an addictive personality disorder will employ various assessment methods that include the intake interview, self-evaluation questionnaires and standardized psychological tests such as the IIP Personality Disorder Scales (IIP-PD), the Self-Directedness Scale: Temperament and Character Inventory (TCI-SD) and the Iowa Personality Disorder Screen (IPDS).

Self-Testing for Addictive Personality Disorder

Although online tests should not be used for clinical diagnostic purposes, they may help people become more self-aware of their addictive behaviors and compel them to seek treatment:

Food addiction self-test

General personality disorder test

Addictive personality test

Addictive personality test II

Treatment for Addictive Personality Disorder

To determine if a drug addict has an addictive personality disorder, addiction psychologists will evaluate the addict following completion of a medical detoxification. It is easier for psychologists to accurately diagnose people addicted to behaviors with APD than those addicted to drugs or alcohol because heroin, meth, cocaine and alcohol exert powerful, destabilizing effects on brain chemistry and, in long-term addiction cases, destructive effects on certain brain structures.

The addictive personality will need ongoing cognitive behavioral therapy and life skills counseling combined with antidepressant medications to help them regain control of their impulsivity, retrain cognitively distorted thinking patterns and overcome their inability to maintain relationships.

Origins of the Addictive Personality

Addictive PersonalitySimilar to other personality disorders, APD appears to have a genetic component, with psychiatrists theorizing that “addictive” genes lie dormant until severe physical, psychological and/or environmental stressors trigger them. This gene-triggering hypothesis is derived from the diathesis-stress model, which states that some biological vulnerabilities may be precipitated by stressful events, such as physical abuse, sexual abuse or other trauma.

Additionally, imbalances of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitter levels in the brain can contribute to development of APD. Signs of addictive personality disorder can appear in children as young as 10, especially if the addiction involves food, the Internet and other things readily available to preteens.

About the author

Robert M. has been in recovery since 1988. He is a sponsor and loyal member of AA. He has been working in the drug and alcohol field for nearly 20 years. During that time, he has written industry blogs and articles for a variety of industry websites including Transitions, Malibu Horizons, Behavioral Health of the Palm Beaches and Lifeskills of Boca Raton.


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