No such thing as an ‘addictive personality’

prisoner of habitsMany of us might think we are “addicted” to tea, coffee, work or chocolate, or know others who we might describe as being “hooked” on television or using pornography. But do these assumptions have any basis in fact?

The issue all comes down to how addiction is defined in the first place – as many of us in the field disagree on what the core components of addiction actually are.

Many would argue that the words “addiction” and “addictive” are used so much in everyday circumstances that they have become meaningless. For instance, saying that a book is an “addictive read” or that a specific television series is “addictive viewing” renders the word useless in a clinical setting. Here, the word “addictive” is arguably used in a positive way and as such it devalues its real meaning.

While there are many pre-disposing factors for addictive behaviour, including genes and personality traits, such as high neuroticism (anxious, unhappy, prone to negative emotions) and low conscientiousness (impulsive, careless, disorganised), addictive personality is a myth.

Even though there is good scientific evidence that most people with addictions are highly neurotic, neuroticism in itself is not predictive of addiction. For instance, there are highly neurotic people who are not addicted to anything, so neuroticism is not predictive of addiction. In short, there is no good evidence that there is a specific personality trait – or set of traits – that is predictive of addiction and addiction alone.

Doing something habitually or excessively does not necessarily make it problematic. While there are many behaviours such as drinking too much caffeine or watching too much television that could theoretically be described as addictive behaviours, they are more likely to be habitual behaviours that are important in a person’s life but actually cause little or no problems. As such, these behaviours should not be described as an addiction unless the behaviour causes significant psychological or physiological effects in their day-to-day lives. To read more and follow the conversation click here.

Treating drug addiction with drugs will be discussed at the Australian and New Zealand Addiction Conference 2016, themed Alcohol – Other Drugs – Behavioural Addictions, Prevention, Treatment and Recovery will be held on the Gold Coast from the 19 – 20 May 2016. To register your attendance at the conference CLICK HERE. Early bird registrations close on Friday 8th April.

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