Addiction is never a good thing – and the media has gone to lengths to depict it even worse over the years. People having an “addictive personality” have been described as selfish, unreliable, weak, and out of control, people who are unable – or unwilling – to resist temptation. Over time, predisposition to addiction has become synonymous with a character disorder, even though no conclusive proof has been discovered to sustain this opinion. Psychologists have spent decades trying to discover a common personality trait in addicts but they couldn’t pin down any single one.
The media has a major role in stigmatizing addicts today. Addicts have been repeatedly used as boogiemen to deter people from one activity or another. The idea of an addict being a society destroyer has been the central point of a recent campaign in the US against the legalization of real money casino games that can be played online. Activists and groups have depicted online gaming venues like the Wild Jack Casino as places of perdition which pushes out addicts as if it had an assembly line. While science hasn’t confirmed their claims (it has actually confirmed the opposite, that playing online is the least likely to turn you into a gambling addict), the public’s perception of the industry in the US had to suffer.
What is the truth about an addictive personality then? Well, most researchers agree that it doesn’t exist per se. Addicts are usually depicted as lying, stealing, manipulative, and antisocial – which is only one combination of traits that does exist but is not universal. Actually, science has failed to pinpoint even one universal personality trait that’s common to all addicts. Some of them are cruel and manipulative while others are caring and kind. Some of them are honest, others are not. Some of them are bold and daring, while many others are shy and discrete. The above-mentioned combination of negative traits – stealing, manipulation, antisocial behavior and the lack of truthfulness – has only been discovered in around 18% of all addicts.
Another thing scientists agree on is that addiction is not a matter of predisposition and personality alone. There are a lot of other factors, including the environment, the way people react to it, and the way other people react to them. Intelligence, for one, is a trait that is known to elevate the risk of developing addictions in life – those with a higher IQ are more likely to use illegal drugs than those with an average intelligence.
As a result, we can conclude that the notion of a single “addictive personality” type is a myth. You can read more on the topic in this lengthy article by author Maia Szalavitz.