Nine signs you may have an addictive personality

It’s often a throwaway line dropped in as some sort of joke, but what does the term ‘addictive personality’ actually mean?

We’ve all used the term, usually in a self-deprecating way, about some personal less-than-ideal habit, but while it has entered the common lexicon it appears it’s not even a diagnosable condition.

In fact, it is a term loosely applied to a bundle of traits people with addiction often have, but as addiction is a complex disorder resulting from a variety of factors, there is not enough evidence to definitively define an addictive ‘personality’.

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Anyone can become addicted to substances such as alcohol or drugs or behaviours such as gambling, gaming or shopping.

While people with addictions often share traits, these do not define their personality and not everyone with an addiction has the same traits.

Critics of the term claim it can be harmful because it may cause people to underestimate their risk if they don’t have all the traits, and offers a simplistic title to a complex problem.

However, there do seem to be some common addictive traits.

Impulse control

According to, you’re impulsive if you often make decisions without thinking about the consequences. For example, buying things you can’t afford and losing your temper frequently.

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Thrill seeking

Always hunting for the next big experience, which can be healthy – you might enjoy travel or trying new cuisines – but it can also be a sign of an addictive personality.


Not all secrets are bad – little white lies keep society going – but if you are constantly indulging in behaviours that require constant or elaborative lies, it can be an indication of an addictive personality trait or an addiction itself.

Obsessive behaviour

If you have difficulty distracting yourself from certain behaviours or habits, then you are much more likely to suffer from an addiction.

Anxiety or depression

People with anxiety or depression are much more likely to suffer from addiction, often because they will use drugs or alcohol to deal with their symptoms.

Reward driven

A common factor underlying addiction is the feeling of reward. According to the Mayo Clinic, a reward is experienced in the brain as a chemical release that creates a craving that fulfills and makes you feel satisfied.

If you are highly reward driven, you are much more at risk of suffering from an addiction.

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Low selfesteem

Addiction is often about reward and if you have low self-esteem, you may want to do things that make you feel better such as continuing addictive behaviour.

ADHD diagnosis

According to, you are four times more likely to develop a substance use disorder if you have been diagnosed with ADHD. The link is being extensively studied but it appears the brain differences that affect the impulse control and reward system play a role.

Family history

Genetics and environment can contribute to addiction. Children of alcoholics are four times more likely to develop a substance disorder than the general population.

Addiction can also be ‘normalised’ in certain environments or developed in response to coping with a troubling personal situation.

Other common signs of an addiction are always wanting more; mood swings; social isolation; continuing despite negative outcomes; inability to follow rules; and replacing relationships.

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Jan Fisher
Jan Fisher
Accomplished journalist, feature writer and sub-editor with impressive knowledge of the retirement landscape, including retirement income, issues that affect Australians planning and living in retirement, and answering YLC members' Age Pension and Centrelink questions. She has also developed a passion for travel and lifestyle writing and is fast becoming a supermarket savings 'guru'.
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