Is There Such a Thing As An Addictive Personality?

Is There Such a Thing As An Addictive Personality?

Maybe you’ve heard a friend use it to explain
why he still hasn’t quit smoking. Or someone said it at a party, as they bit
into their seventeenth cheese-puff, or had their third glass of wine. “I just have an addictive personality.” We hear it all the time. But is an “addictive personality” a real
thing? Despite what some online quizzes would have
you believe, the idea that certain people have a specific “personality type” that
wires them for addictive behavior is probably false. And the websites that claim to tell people
if they have addictive personality /disorder/ are almost definitely wrong. That said, like just about everything in psychology,
whether a certain person — or a certain personality type — can be prone to addiction is a sticky
question. There /are/ some factors — mainly ones that
have to do with genetics and the environment — that can make someone more likely to develop
a problem with addiction. And there are personality /traits/ that have
been found to be more common among people with addictions. But those traits don’t combine to form what
you’d call an “addictive personality.” And “addictive personality disorder” is
/not/ an actual psychiatric diagnosis. So, let’s break down what we really mean
when we talk about addiction and personality and disorders, to see how they do — and don’t
— come together. [INTRO] Ask a psychologist, or a psychiatrist, or
any other professional whose job it is to study the human mind, and they’ll tell you
that addiction is defined as a compulsive craving for, and impulsive use of, something
pleasurable, even when there are adverse consequences. Basically: we’re talking about anything
that fires up the reward centers in someone’s brain, but, over time, damages their health,
work, or relationships. Of course, addictions can be chemical, when
the body becomes dependent on a particular substance, like alcohol or cocaine. Nowadays, experts refer to these kinds of
addictions as substance use disorders – when substance use becomes dysfunctional, distressing,
and even dangerous. With many substance use disorders, the body
needs more of the substance to feel the same effects – that’s called tolerance – and
stopping the drug can lead to withdrawal symptoms. But addictive behavior isn’t always related
to a chemical dependency. For example, a compulsive need to go on a
shopping spree or binge on ice cream might be considered a psychological addiction. What makes it an addiction isn’t necessarily
the action — it’s the compulsive need to do it under duress and the impulsive behaviors
that result. That’s one reason people are more likely
to be addicted to more than one thing, or move from one addictive behavior to the next
— it’s how they respond to stress. Lots of studies have shown that addictions
can be influenced by both genetics and environmental factors, like experiencing abuse or peer pressure. But at the same time, people who have a family
history of dependency, or who have been in an abusive environment, may /never/ struggle
with addiction. The thinking behind the idea of an “addictive
personality” is that certain personality traits might somehow make someone more likely
to develop an addiction. So, that’s why, when most of us hear the
term used, it’s used fatalistically. Like, “I just can’t quit smoking. It’s my
addictive personality.” Now, there are studies that have shown an
association between some personality traits and substance use disorders. For example, a review of studies published
in 2014 found that people with substance use disorders are more likely to experience emotions
like anxiety, anger, guilt, and a depressed mood. And at the same time, they tend to be less
likely to express enthusiasm, strong motivation, and desire. The study also found that people who struggle
with addiction tend to have less of the trait that psychologists call constraint — they
tend to act on their impulses, and have trouble with self-control. But those traits don’t necessarily combine
to form an “addictive personality.” Because the relationship between personality
and addiction is complicated. For one thing, there are plenty of people
with those traits who never develop any form of addiction. Plus, an association is not the same thing
as a cause. Addictions involve a lot of different factors,
from genetics and epigenetics to behavioral learning and trauma, and they’re all tangled
together in ways that researchers may never perfectly sort out. OK, so that’s what we understand about addiction. But let’s talk about what psychologists
mean by “personality.” Personality is one of the most complex and
contested concepts in psychology — which is saying something, considering this is a
field where you can’t throw a cigar without hitting three different perspectives. Most psychologists do agree, at least, that
personality exists. And they often define it as a person’s distinctive
and enduring characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving. So, there’s that. But if you really want to start a brawl in
the faculty lounge, just ask a bunch of psychologists how your personality really works. Because there are all kinds of theories about
that. For example, some psychologists take what’s
known as a psychodynamic point of view. This school of thought typically views personality
in terms of the interactions between the conscious and unconscious mind. So, psychodynamic theorists might think about
addiction in terms of the uncomfortable clash between the pleasure-seeking and constraint
– or between the id and the superego, if you want to take it back to Freud. These folks might also think of addiction
as a defense against feelings of helplessness, traumatic memories, or difficult emotions. But another approach to personality is known
as the social-cognitive perspective. This view points out that people around us
influence our behavior, so our personalities and our social preferences often reinforce
each other. So if you want to stop drinking, for example,
social-cognitive thinkers would point out that it’d help a lot if you didn’t hang
out in bars, or go to keggers, where there’s not only alcohol but lots of people who drink. And then there’s what’s known as trait
theory. This suggests that we all have traits — say, how secure or insecure we are — that
are fairly fixed, but exist on a spectrum. These personality traits actually do a decent
job of predicting our typical behavior, but only to a certain extent. And it’s around here where the confusion
around the idea of an “addictive personality” seems to have started. The concept of an “addictive personality”
came into vogue in the early 1980s, after the National Research Council published a
book about addiction that included a chapter about what so-called “personality factors”
might relate to addiction. The author of that chapter was Dr. Alan Lang,
a psychology professor who reviewed lots of previous research, and conducted his own studies
into alcoholism and drug addiction. And he concluded, and I quote: “There is no single, unique personality
entity that is a necessary and sufficient condition for substance use.” In other words, there isn’t a single personality
type that would make someone predisposed to addiction. But despite that, Lang’s research was profiled
by the New York Times under a giant headline that said “THE ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY,”
the idea got stuck in the popular consciousness. Now, it’s worth pointing out that Lang did
report that drug and alcohol addicts seemed to have certain traits in common. Specifically, he said that addicts tend to
display impulsivity more than non-addicts, as well as non-conformity, social alienation,
and high levels of stress. Even today, most psychologists would probably
agree that there could be a connection between certain personality traits like these, and
addictive behavior. However, that connection is not a simple cause-and-effect
relationship. And — maybe this is more important — they’re not taken to be predictive. Saying that certain traits are more common
among people with addictions doesn’t mean that having those traits predict addiction
for someone who doesn’t have one yet. And, at least as psychologists understand
the concept, a personality isn’t just a bunch of traits put together. So it doesn’t really makes sense to say
that a person with those traits has an addictive personality. And it definitely wouldn’t be accurate to
say that they have an addictive personality disorder, either. Psychological disorders — or mental illnesses
— are defined as distressing and dysfunctional patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors
outside the cultural norm, that negatively impact a person’s life. And there is a group of disorders known as
personality disorders — they can be any one of about 12 distinct conditions that affect
personality. They involve things you’ve probably heard
of, like paranoid personality, schizoid personality, or anti-social personality. Like many other mental illnesses, these disorders
often lead to social isolation, which can cause problems with addiction. But addiction itself is not considered a personality
disorder — you can have a personality disorder without an addiction, and you can have an
addiction without a personality disorder. And the set of traits that’s common among
people with addictions? They don’t make up a personality disorder, either. So, on a technical level, the idea of an addictive
personality — or an addictive personality disorder — is basically wrong. But the way personality and addiction come
together is still tricky. You /could/ argue that if the addiction becomes
so overwhelming it starts dominating a person’s behavior, then maybe their personality has
been affected. Then again, if we think of addiction as a
disease or disorder that affects behavior, we probably wouldn’t want to define someone
based solely on their illness. I mean, if I broke my arm, or was in cancer
treatment, and did things a little differently as a result, you wouldn’t say I had a broken
arm personality or cancer personality. So, psychologists wouldn’t use the term
“addictive personality” this way, either. In the past, we’ve talked about how a lot
of psychological terms get co-opted into daily conversation — like if you hear someone call
their neighbor a psycho, when odds are they’re neither a psychopath nor psychotic. We sometimes misuse words with very specific,
even diagnostic meanings, and it often ends up perpetuating misinformation, and well,
confusing everyone. So, saying you have an “addictive personality”
probably falls into this category. Big thanks to Dr. Ranjit Bhagwat [rahn jeet
bog wot], who helped us with this episode of SciShow, which was brought to you by our
patrons on Patreon. If you want to help support this show, just go to
And don’t forget to go to and subscribe!


  1. There is a long trail of addiction in my family going back generations. Alcoholics, Junkies, and even being addicted to nasal sprays. Coincidentally, Bipolar Disorder and Psychotic Depression also goes back generations as well. I have Bipolar Disorder and find myself unable to control myself around addictive substances (aderal, alcohol and pot) and I fantasize about doing every single drug and plan out how and who I can get them from (heroin, cocaine, meth, crack).

  2. Being at the height of an addiction turns you into a sociopath regardless of how you were before. Your extremely impulsive and basically a sociopath even if you feel terrible about it after. By the time you get clean your an expert at lying, stealing and manipulating and you hate yourself for it. After a decade I know it has completely changed the way I think. Really makes you feel hopeless I'm still depressed as fuck even after 2 years clean

  3. Im confused now… Ok so I was told three years ago that I am a highly addictive person. So I've avoided all drugs, aside from a caffeine addiction, have I been doing that for no reason???

  4. Its calLed

    …oh(?) … i mean… i adress something i recognise as i know referred… user or abuser. Thats alL… q
    We surely evolved from counter dependence by now

  5. Heureca!. Thanx. Figured sum…surely nothing remarkable..but … i received a letter ..dont ask by whom ..there is a disorder as is in sentence n attendence cogniti…ah! Recogn n u got a behaviour habit. Therefor or b .. pea…(?) Or whateva … im no sheakspear .. nor original idea .. i mind no ugly wether so to b, that is… frankly problem gone by post

  6. Using logic and his definitions almost proved the possibility of an Addictive Personality Disorder (this is the first time I have ever heard of such a thing). "Psychological disorders, or mental illnesses, are defined as distressing & dysfunctional patterns of thoughts, feelings, or behaviors outside the cultural norm, that negatively impact a person's life, " so addition addiction is defiantly a disorder. However, I am confused is when he states, "we probably wouldn't want to define someone based solely on their illness." That is exactly what the list of personality disorders does. Also, the illnesses that he uses as examples are physical illnesses, not mental. It would seem to me that the idea of Addictive Personality Disorder vs an ordinary addiction disorder would be the source of the addictive behavior. I would think if addiction is hard wired due to genetics, that would be classified as Addictive Personality Disorder (if such a thing ever actually existed). I am more confused after watching this video.

  7. This video hates inductive lines of thinking. You CAN predict some peoples tendencies from their traits. This vid is too PC for its own good. Inductive forms of thinking put more emphasis on the odds of something happening, while deductive believes in more black/white forms of thinking. Some people just can't handle a probabilistic type/way of thinking – these people are stuck in only deductive ways of thinking.

    Some examples: When a baby starts crying when its mother walks by, the baby's probably hungry. When a man acts too people-pleasing to women, most women see that as coming from a weak beta-male. People read traits and react to them all the time. If we didn't have inductive reactions, people might never respond to communications. People see the typical traits of a certain type of situation and react accordingly. A lot of narrow-minded, PC people just can't accept inductive ways of thinking…yet they do engage in it all the time.

  8. It's nice to know news sources like "The New York Times" have consistently misrepresented scientific studies for decades and it isn't a new thing

  9. But unfortunately, there is such a thing as addictive personality. Call it what you will, but any good astrologer can see it when reading a natal chart

  10. this host seems like he hasnt tried a few of the seriously addictive drugs. im a sucker for uppers and not any easy catch for downers.

  11. I've been told by a couple of different medical Dr's that I have a non-addictive personality… how ever it has nothing to do with my personality. my body/brain does not respond to medications/drugs… caffine/cigerettes/alcohol ect…. like most people do. I have stopped pain meds no physical withdrawl… so in that thought process I could see where some people developed a more addictive trait physically… but again that late should not include personality

  12. You can slice and dice it any way you like, but it's disingenuous to dismiss psychological tendencies because we haven't figured out how to classify them yet. I'm so addictive that, as soon as I find something that works for me, I can no longer do without it. Since I discovered the best coffee in town, I configure my mornings around getting it, and won't entertain plans that would prevent it. Likewise with my exercise routine–I'll miss the bus and let the whole day go down the tubes because I'm not finished with my exercise. So I don't dare seek other daily products and services that work for me because I'll become so attached to them I won't be able to move. I"m wary of trying nice new things because I may become instantly attached to them. Obviously coffee is not too harmful, and exercise is downright good, but I quickly imprison myself with my material attachments. So it makes sense for someone like me to acknowledge that my addictive tendency is definitely A Thing and factor it into my planning…whether institutional science has figured it out or not!

  13. I would even argue that the aforementioned personality traits that are associated with addiction, actually stem from it not that they are the cause of it. Say, personally I am a smoker and do agree that I am more impulsive, and all of the above, however this was not the case before I started smoking, NOR was it the case when I stopped smoking! Addiction in my view causes these specific traits, not the other way around and I think if psychologists would consider this idea they would find much consistency, even biologically speaking with it. Being used to alieviate the idea of stress with chemicals should make someone more impulsive because addictive substance consumption does come with a certain cycle that balances this impulsivity out. Take the substance out of the equation and you take this cycle out, leaving the brain more space to decide, think more clearly etc. I also think depression is a consequence of drug abuse, as none of these drugs are beneficial for the body. Quite the opposite, they are very toxic and for me, it makes sense that depression occurs as a side effect of chronic poisoning of one's body.

  14. 5:28 "drug and alcohol addicts" ; 7:24 "terms get co-opted…(and we) misuse words" …. uhhmmm like continuing to say drug AND alcohol, as if there's a distinction! Structuring your phrasing like this is problematic and continues to provide cover for an otherwise nonsensical use of words. Here try this on: "Don't do drugs and marijuana". It doesn't sound right because it isn't (notwithstanding its legal status in various countries and states). The proper phrasing should be drugs INCLUDING alcohol. Alcohol is a drug and listed as such the world over by governmental health organizations. It would be culturally beneficial if we embraced this change of phrasing. But a lot of people have vested interests (financially or even supporting a personal belief system) and would rather continue to see the waters muddied.. The legality of alcohol does not change its status as drug. If alcohol were discovered 50 years ago and its harm duly documented leading up to today, there's no way in hell it's going to be made legal and it would likely be graded as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. It's a small change but an important one. Drugs INCLUDING alcohol…start saying it right.

  15. Yes, it is called being a human! We are all addicted to something! We are like big babies stopping our feet screaming I want, I want, I want! It can come in collecting green pieces of paper!

  16. im addicted to….well, pretty much anything that helps me escape reality. books, tv shows, music, youtube, my own imagination….its a compulsion i cant control or stop, and i do it even when it causes me so much trouble. im only grateful that i dont have access to alcohol or drugs, because if i did, im almost completely sure id be addicted those too. anything to escape reality….

  17. its so so very hard to live with it.. cant relate to añyone (wouldve said 'friends' instead of 'anyone' but ive nevèr had friends no one likes me coz of it. its impossible for anyone to understand) and yeah im 15 and did crystal meth couple times and i smoke alot of weed and honestĺy i dont know why. im i strong christian on the inside since the age of 4, God has given me alot of wisdom and knowledge anď He speaks to me, i also have adhd so i honestly cant stop thinking (especially with all the things God has shown me and the intelligence/wisdom(not bragģing bout my intelligence, im supeŕ humble thats why i act like àn idiot at school and make jokes so i can have attention = temporary friends)) and cannot sit stilĺ. ive never been offenďed in my life and ñever physicaly fight. never met my father but i need to because hes my father = supposedly the same ás me. (thats what i expect) yeah thats my life and literally havent said this to anyone so i decided to make a YT comment so atĺeast someone ķnows.

  18. Ha, therefore u don't know how specific why it connects, u r putting things into a view that tackles addictive personality, but addictive personalities could exist as u have said that traits and addiction connect, then they would have an addictive personality, it's just never ALWAYS the case, doesn't really completely fit the definition, and not always specifically happen to a certain group with a certain personality OR addition doesn't mean that two of them don't exist just because "this reasoning doesn't happen for everyone". The ones that do are the one that do, obviously it's not gonna happen to everybody with a certain type of personality or addiction, but for the ones that do have a cause and affect for it… it just exists. But yea, it just doesn't fit in some way unless u change the specific phrase "addictive personality" a lil. Besides, u did say it's complex, because the are many possibilities for the causes, that makes the cause of addiction would be the personality and vice versa improbable, therefore excluding the people who does have those "traits". PS, make sure everyone UNDERSTANDS the concept of "personality"

  19. A question about the correlation studies. Do they check if the noted traits were the same before the addiction or a consequence of it?

  20. I'm still wondering how some people can try any number of drugs (like weed, shrooms, LSD, cocain, etc.) once and then immediately spiral out of control with it's use, and others can try a drug many times and be able to stop at any moment when deemed necessary? @scishow this is a genuin question.

  21. If somebody wholly believes they have an addictive personality, is it possible that it acts as a sort of placebo to make them more likely to act compulsively? So, for example, if somebody wasn't aware this is just a myth, is it possible that they'd be more likely to, say, compulsively eat cookies, than they would be if they were aware?

  22. check out the Neuroscience of addiction takeaway opinion sprinkle some science epigenetics brain mapping not genetics you'll find out more truth not a bunch of opinions of psychologists and bias testing that's more about belief environment not even a physical environment but a mental environment someone having an upbringing in an upper class with no family issues and great moral background that person can fall into personal belief and become an addict and distructivness

  23. I am diagnosed with ADHD and I also have a addictive personality. A 18 months ago for 7 months I was addicted to drugs and not caring what I was doing and how I was harming loved ones . I came out off this period and I started to get back to my normal self and guess what.. I now have a Xbox addiction on FIFA.. it has ended friendship and made me so unmotivated to do anything I've probably spent £250 on "FIFA points". I can't get out off this; it sounds stupid – but it's a never ending cycle 🙁

  24. If you say there is no such thing as an addictive personality you haven’t met my aunt Kim she’s a bit… odd.

  25. I think it is related to genetics. I know that my experience is annecdotal but there is a history of addiction in my family like I have never seen in any of my friend's family. Some uncles, my cousin, my dad and my brother all fought or currently fighting addiction.

  26. Whenever someone asks me if I smoke (usually a smoker) I tend to say "No, because I think I'd get addicted and don't want to go down that path." Because of the Addictive Personality myth, a lot of people accept that, sometimes commend me, and the conversation continues without a hitch. So I'm grateful for the widely-held myth and feel a little guilt from that.

  27. When I read the title I thought we were going to be talking about a certain personality type that people just love to be around.

  28. Idk my dad was addicted to smoking (and it's now dead) and all of my brothers smoke. I don't smoke but I did notice I get addicted to things easily so I don't touch drugs or alcohol. Maybe that's just a personality trait that was present around me and it affected me or maybe it's all in my head idk.

    Also this is sort of related to this topic ( however humans are not rats), but there is a genetic disposition for alcoholism and you can buy laboratory rats that can either want to drink and be can become alcoholics or don't genetically like alcohol. It's been bred over many years and a lot of generations. people today can clinically replicate experiments using those Gene expressions from many years ago, so there may be something such as a genetic disposition to addiction, however I am not sure because I am not a neuroscientist… I only had the pleasure to work with one.

  29. Interesting video, as I have come to expect from you, but I want to comment on a non-content issue: No music! Oh, thank you thank you thank you! Why do so many content producers think it's a good idea to drown themselves out with irrelevant music? Again, thank you!

  30. Okay but what if it were shown that certain personality traits correlated to a higher chance of becoming addicted to a substance… Wouldn't that justify saying that they have an addictive "personality"?
    If I said I have an aggressive or calm personality you could point to the fact that my aggression is regulated by serotonin and what-have-you, argue that calm people simply have a less stressful environment, and try to disassociate personality from behavior.. but isn't our personality nothing more than a summation of our actions and the way we behave? If not, then by what?

    I'm sure no one actually means that their addictive "personality" is a literal personality "type" as opposed to a "trait"..

    I am not intending to defend the people who use this phrase as a guilt-buffer and excuse. Although I am not currently addicted to any illegal or dangerous substances, I can tell you from my impulsive/obsessive behaviour in the past that there is certainly something about my personality that I believe earns the adjective "addictive".

  31. I'm not sure how I feel about this. I feel all my life I've been struggling with addiction of sorts, whether that be food, alcohol, drugs, people etc. I just need my fix of something, and I can't help it. Is that not what people really my by addictive personality? Cus I have fallen into the trap all my life and seemingly always will do

  32. If I said your video is a bunch of crap, are you going to explain to me the differences between Digital media and fecal matter? Addictive personality my not be a Scientific definition, but having an obsessive personality can raise your risk of addiction. I know, I have always been an obsessive person. I been "Addicted" to everything from collecting baseball cards when I was a kid to all sorts of destructive behaviors as an adult. The second I find something I like, I want more and more of it. I have always been like this in everything I do. I have an obsessive personality that make it easy for me to get addicted to things. Maybe that's not the same thing as an "addictive personality", but I don't see much of a difference in the final outcome.

  33. Important: it's not about pleasure, it's about craving. Check out the work of NIDA director Nora Volkow and UMich professor Kent Berridge.

  34. I think it's false that people have an addictive personality and I think this myth is harmful. I've seen adults completely blindsided by a nicotine addiction after "socially" smoking. Some substances are very addictive. Smoking has a soothing behavioral effect combined with an highly addictive chemical. Do not let your well-adjusted character lull you into compacency about addictive drugs.

  35. Funny how substance abuse is a "disorder" now. I wonder if it has anything to do with the "opioid crisis" and the demographic it's been affecting most…getting people to feel sorry because it's a "disorder". But oh what empathy we all lacked when crack hit… Very interesting.

  36. This is one video I totally disagree with. A drug may not do anything for you but the act of doing it can. Therefore there is an addictive personality. The whole drug addiction is a false perception in my opinion and experience. There's many different types of drugs and anything can be considered a drug if done in access. So why is someone "attached" to weed and not alcohol or vice versa? I think its the social attachment and mental experience while doing the drug that we cling too. I've never done any street drug that actually made me feel better it's the association and act of doing it that people cling to unless its medical but even so it's still probably psychological.

  37. Very interesting! I have said that I have an addictive personality before; thanks for setting me straight! Now I will have to find a different way of describing myself to therapists, etc.

  38. I get the point…. but 'I have an addictive personality' is much easier to say than "I tend to have stress related impulsive habits which have adverse effects. And I generally lack strong desire or personal willpower to fight these compulsions"

  39. someone at work told me a long time ago, that i had an addictive personality n was confused n thought he meant my personality gave off an energy that attracts others. 😊

  40. It can be a cop out specially when one lives unhealthy blaming there genes when environment plays bigger part and we can turn on or off some genes even Faceboog and games creat the exact same neurological effects as any drug even stress. ANYONE can change ( personally thought false ) and rewire there brains and personality traits since a emotions (emotions are record of the past) spawn a mood that spawns a personality trait spawns your personal reality so armed with self knowledge and acting on that and becoming and thinking greater then your environment opens possibility be blessed to all. Joe dispenza Bruce Lipton Greg breden are great teachers of self empowerment

  41. When a person comes into contact with alities, these alities can infect us, causing the development of a permanent personality. What causes these alities to bloom in the natural world is still not clearly understood. lol

  42. Wow, this is my first time seeing the show. Amazing job of explaining complex concepts in a very digestible way

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