Do some people have an addictive personality?

addiction, personality, addictive

Psychologists have identified a number of personality traits that make certain people more vulnerable to addiction. Described as an addictive personality, this psychological makeup predisposes its owner to a range of compulsive behaviours. One key trait is impulsivity, the tendency to act without thinking of consequences. Others include sensation-seeking, a poor ability to manage stress and a sense of social alienation. Everyone exhibits some of these behaviours, but addictive personalities experience them more intensely.

These characteristics have some genetic basis: genes causing abnormal dopamine levels in the brain, for instance, may contribute to risk-taking behaviour. But environmental factors, such as upbringing and early-life experiences, are likely to be just as influential. Although 10-15 per cent of people have addictive personalities, not all become addicts. Addiction often begins when a trigger – for example, a traumatic experience – leads someone to gravitate towards addictive behaviours.

Answered by Alex Cheung