I recently read a blog entry about addictive personalities. It was published on a blog about treatment for sex addiction. It is written by a doctor, and I find the information there very interesting and helpful. Check it out at http://porn-no-more.com/.
In the post about addictive personalities, she quotes a study by Alan R. Lang, a psychology professor at Florida State University. His study was about how a person’s personality plays into addiction. What I found very interesting is the list of common personality traits shared among all addicts. They include:
- Impulsive behavior, difficulty in delaying gratification and a predisposition toward sensation seeking;
- A sense of social alienation and a general tolerance for deviance;
- A sense of heightened stress;
- Compulsive attraction to excessive, repetitive use of pleasurable activities to cope with unmanageable internal distress, pressure and stress. While such activity may begin pleasurably, the process of increasing activity to achieve the same effect eventually results in injury to major aspects of the person’s life.
- The addicted person denies that his activity is detrimental to him. If forced to stop, he finds he suffers physical or psychological withdrawal pains and feels compelled to resume his excessive pattern. Compulsiveness is key.
- Tendencies to depression, dependent behavior and difficulty formulating long-term personal goals because of a concentration on short-term gratification;
- The potentially addictive child may have been physically or emotionally abused by one or both parents. The child has often been lied to, shamed, criticized or humiliated by parents who act in highly inconsistent ways, leaving the child in a helpless rage;
- A lack of self esteem — feelings of low self-worth.
I can’t answer on that list for Mr. Mess, but reading it hit very close to home for me. Out of the above list, I can put a check mark next to 6 of them. The first one doesn’t hold true for me because I usually have no problem with delayed gratification – in fact, I think it’s the best kind. I’m also generally not a very impulsive person. I like having a plan, and I like to stick to it. There isn’t a lot of “sensation seeking” going on with me for the most part, either, except for planning the occasional fun activity on vacation (like going air boat riding in Louisiana and feeding the alligators) and my desire to go sky diving.
#2 is me to a T. I was alienated socially from a pretty early age. As you have read in some of my past posts (Tackling My Body Issues and Pink), I was home-schooled until middle school. I had a pretty difficult transition, and have never been a social butterfly. My lack of popularity was also due to my introverted personality (See Being Complete Opposites), and the fact that I wore braces, thick glasses, and had a very unfortunate perm. I was always different from other kids my age. I was constantly reading something, I pondered bigger life questions, and I wasn’t interested in whatever the new fad of the moment was. Once I became more confident I also embraced the weirdness in myself. I started to think of “normal” as one of the worst words in the English language. I would rather die than be average. That led to a “general tolerance for deviance” because deviating from the norm was a very good thing in my eyes.
I’m not so sure about the “sense of heightened stress” described in #3. I don’t know if that means that I have heightened stress in my life, my stress perception is heightened, or that I blow stress out of proportion. Any of those except the 3rd definition fit me pretty well. I do have quite a bit of stress in my life right now (lots going on at work, sex addict husband, dog with glaucoma, trying to diet, and on my period today…), I can perceive stress in others, and I sometimes allow other people’s stress to bleed over into me. I am fairly pragmatic most of the time, though, and don’t think I blow things out of proportion much. On the contrary, I am usually the one who helps people calm down and put things in perspective.
The concepts in #4 are things that I have been really thinking about the past few days. I will probably go into this more soon when I talk about my most recent S-Anon meeting, but I’ll leave those specifics for another post. Just to scratch the surface a bit, I have been able to recognize areas in my life where I use activities to cope with stress and emotions that I want to avoid. One way I do that is by blogging. It can be a very healthy outlet, but it can also become a refuge from dealing with hard things. I have been guilty of spending hours writing and editing my posts, then more hours reading other people’s blogs and commenting. Sometimes my hours of blogging have taken away from my responsibilities at work or have led me to shut out Mr. Mess or not spend the time connecting with him at night that I should be. It didn’t start that way, but it has escalated over time as I needed more and more connection to feel the same level of support and sanity, and as I watched my blog stats climb.
The other one that doesn’t fit me well is #5. Even when I’m engaging in an activity that is addictive and starting to take hold, I am aware. I never deny the issue. In fact, I am often the first to point it out. I limit myself intentionally in areas that I can feel an addiction starting to grow because I don’t want to be that person. There are very few activities in my life that are truly compulsive or that I don’t already make a conscious effort to control. Blogging and shopping are my two newest “vices.” In the past it might have been food. No matter what, I always stay away from excessive alcohol consumption, I have never abused any prescription medications, and I don’t use illegal drugs. At times I have been “addicted” to stupid things, like playing Farmville. Once I realized the amount of time it was consuming, I very quickly stopped playing and haven’t looked back. There were no “physical or psychological withdrawal pains.” I have always been aware of this tendency in myself and worked hard to control it.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time on the rest of these, except to say that they definitely exist. I have a tendency to depression and have struggled with it at various points in my life. I am currently on an anti-depressant and intend to stay on it because it seems to be working pretty well. I was also emotionally and possibly physically (depending on your perspective) abused by my father growing up. I was shamed and humiliated by my Dad a lot as a means of control, he was terribly inconsistent in his behavior and rules between me and my siblings, his beliefs were often irrational, and the “helpless rage” sounds all too familiar. It is probably obvious from some of my past posts that I have struggled with a lack of self-esteem and have often wondered if I am good enough.
I think this topic is very interesting. I have no idea where I originally heard the term, but I know that I have thought of myself as having an “addictive personality” since I was fairly young. Even in my early teens I remember identifying with that term intensely. Addiction does seem to run in my family, if there is such a thing as that (I think I have heard there is). My grandmother on my Mom’s side is an alcoholic. She has been sober for 13 years, and still attends AA meetings every week. Before she got sober, though, she almost lost her life because of drinking on at least two ocassions. My grandmother on my Dad’s side is probably an alcoholic, too, although she would never admit it. She and my grandpa used to go through a case of beer a day and a carton or more of cigarettes between the two of them. Two of my cousins have been arrested for drug dealing (marijuana), one of my cousins has had at least 2 “crack babies” who were addicted to hard substances from birth and taken away by Child Protective Services, and I believe another of my cousins is in rehab as we speak (although I’m not sure what her drug of choice is and her health is further complicated by schizophrenia).
I think because I was aware of addiction growing up and saw its effects on my family, I also became aware of how easy it could be for me to slip into that behavior. I have always been someone to engage completely in anything I attempt. That is usually a good thing, but it can easily turn into an addiction that becomes detrimental to your life. Walking that fine line is hard. It is equally hard to be present and deal with your emotions as they come up, especially the difficult ones. Finding a way to escape is completely normal, but it can also go too far if you have an addictive personality. It is far too easy to be lured into the trap of addiction. Then, before you know it, you could be caught up in something that is very difficult to get untangled from.
How about you? Do you have any of these personality traits? Do you think you might have an addictive personality? If so, what do you think is your current addiction of choice (don’t limit yourself to the “traditional” hard substances alone)?
- The darker side of a shopping addict (teatart.com)
- Traumatic childhood may increase the risk of drug addiction: study (medicalxpress.com)
- What Creates A Sex Addict? (lukeford.net)
- Sex addiction should not be a “Get out of jail free” card (psychologytoday.com)
- Searching for My Addiction (dyske.com)
- Sex Addiction, Stress, and Despair – Don’t Allow Them Overwhelm You (socyberty.com)