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 Marcia Purse

Addictive Personality

By March 18, 2009

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There is something called Addictive Personality Disorder, and I think I have it. As an adolescent, I was seriously addicted to television. In the past 15 years or so, I have been addicted at one time or another to such things as:
  • Prodigy roleplaying chat (until Prodigy closed down)
  • Designing web pages for roleplayer characters on Prodigy (impossible now)
  • Gardening (still garden, still somewhat addictive about buying too many plants)
  • Computer games - particularly those from RPG Maker 2000/2003
  • Computer solitaire (recent, still happening but lessening due to Facebook, below)
  • Crocheting (recent, still happening)
  • Facebook Hatchlings and Word Hunt (just started, severe)
Solitaire AddictionI mean - I got addicted to one single solitaire game and played 2,200 games of it before going back to games I had liked before!

The Encyclopedia of Psychology says about addictive personalities: "To a greater or lesser extent, people engaged in addictive behavior tend to plan their lives around it; in extreme cases they will do almost anything to obtain the substance or engage in the behavior. The addiction makes them neglect other areas of their lives." This portion of their article almost describes me. I don't quite plan my life around Facebook or solitaire, but I can get drawn into such things way too easily.

Of course, drug, alcohol and gambling addictions and many eating disorders are all frequent symptoms of Addictive Personality Disorder, but I don't have any of those and never did. But I've realized how destructive being caught up in nonproductive activities is! (At least crocheting produces something.)

I'm wondering if this is a trait of bipolar disorder. So what about you? Do you see signs of activity addiction in yourself?

March 18, 2009 at 7:39 pm
(1) Kat says:

What is the actual difference between the “addictive personality disorder” and actual addiction? The tendency to become addicted to something is different than actually being actively addicted. Many of us out here have addictive personalities, but we do things to make sure we do not go into the actual “addict” mode.

March 21, 2009 at 3:51 pm
(2) mrbreeze9999 says:

I’must thinking off the top of my head here – and I am no authority other than having coped with bipolar I for 37 years and survived – and having read quite a bit about the illness.

Bipolar illness is, of course, a PHYSICAL disorder of the brain…meaning that both the neurochemistry AND the actual physiology (shapes and sizes) of brain structures are different.

This leads to some interesting consequences.

Repetitive behaviors, especially involving “pleasure centers” in the brain (which are moderated by the neurotransmitter dopamine) are far more frequent and become problematic. Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter effected by psychiatric drugs. Also, there is a substantial subset of people with bipolar illness with comorbid conditions like drug, gambling and sexual “addictions”, alcoholism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder…among many other serious problems commonly found in people who are bipolar.

Also, bipolar illness notoriously increases impulsiveness and lowers inhibition – even when the extreme manifestations of the illness (extreme highs and lows) are ABSENT. This is another way of saying that bipolarity is exerting powerful effects on your behavior even when you are controling the most disturbing aspects with medications and not having episodes.

Give yourself some credit – you can’t “think your way out of” some of these behaviors – especially without staying on the proper medications in consultation with a psychiatrist and some support from a therapist, family, friends, and support groups. Our brains simply don’t have the capacity to observe themselves and change behavior – sometimes not even being able to admit that a problem actually exists.

You know you are having problems with extreme repetitive behaviors – a good starting point. Now the question is “What are you going to do about it to effectively control the damaging consequences?”

March 24, 2009 at 6:33 am
(3) Krinny says:

I’m pretty sure in my case that when I was not managing my Bipolar II with medicines, I got sort of obsessive with my manias. I was prone to cleaning fits, where I’d obsessively HAVE to clean my home or office, and often redecorate (including moving huge furnishings) to the exclusion of getting other work done. Co-workers laughed, but one time I couldn’t stand a bunch of stuff out of order (which now, on meds, I realise didn’t matter), and I spent something like 3 days tidying a radio station production room where I worked. Nowadays, on meds, I actually can sit amongst untidyness. Was it like an addiction? Or an obsession/compulsion? I don’t know. But with meds, it’s minimised if not gone.

Secondly, I couldn’t start something without seeing it finished in one go. Nowadays, I sort of miss that dedication, but I think I’m more healthy now. It’s been years since I pulled an all-nighter at the workplace, but I used to do it a few times a year. For no extra pay. Now that’s unbalanced!!

March 24, 2009 at 6:58 am
(4) Zanners says:

Oh yea! got ‘em all and a few more.
As an alcoholic in recovery, I clearly recognize all my addictive behaviors. It seems to my uneducated mind that many AA’s feel the same. I’ve heard AA’s say they replaced one addiction for the other. True, maybe less destructive but they wish to make changes. Sometime AA’s use the 12 steps to manage smoking, over eating, sexual behaviors…etc. For me it works. Thank my higher power!

March 24, 2009 at 8:42 am
(5) Tracy says:

The DSM-IV-TR (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual)which is the diagnostic manual that mental health professionals use has no “addictive personality disorder” in it. It’s hard to say where this term originated but as far as the mental profession goes, it does not exist.
I have Bipolar II and am a recovering addict with 5 grateful years of recovery and I often hear others at meetings say they have an addictive personality.
From what I can see, what I have learned, and from personal experience, behaviors can trigger the same physiological responses that drugs do which means that my personality has very little to do with my addictions and compulsions.

And I want to thank Mr. Breeze for his beautifully worded comment. I think he’s brilliant!

March 24, 2009 at 9:04 am
(6) Joyce says:

I agree with Tracy. It is not a documented disorder in the DSM manual, however, I highly suspect that it will appear in the next revision of the manual. I think the addictive personality aspects overlap other mental illnesses as well (such as is found in Obsessive Compulsive Disorder). I too have bipolar II and food is my most self-harming addiction, but as others have mentioned, I have gone out of my way to feed other areas of addictions in my life, thankfully none of them are illegal, but self-harming nonetheless…

March 24, 2009 at 9:49 am
(7) Anne says:

Absolutely. Solitaire, eBay, etc. I bought a dog figurine when my sister and I went thrifting. I ended up buying 6 of the other dog figurines (from Brazil). God, they are ugly! Although the first one was nice. If I am interested in something, I request nearly all the books on the shelf from the library, etc. I knew something was going on but didn’t realize it was a bona fide syndrome.

March 24, 2009 at 1:12 pm
(8) peter says:

I was in therapy awhile for sex addiction – was told my therapist and doctors (plural) that it was a common affliction among some BiPolar sufferers

March 24, 2009 at 1:23 pm
(9) ADAMediator says:

Oh yes. I am addicted to MORE. If a little bit is good, a whole lot is fabulous! My solitaire record is 86 seconds to finish.

Is it physiological or is it psychological? The answer is yes. Whether aligned with OCD or escapist behavior, if it intrudes on our ability to function in life, it’s an addiction.

If not, it is just a bad habit, unless it leads to productive ends. I suspect Edison was a wee bit compulsive. I surmise that many successful actors are escapist by nature.

In my case it seems to be mostly escapist of irregularities and surprises. Is it derived from past experience or wiring? Yes.

The point for me is to identify what tends to obstruct my living a life balanced by fun and service, daily, and find ways to unravel the puzzle from any constructive source.

March 24, 2009 at 5:21 pm
(10) Karen says:

I was only diagnosed with BP 4 years ago but throughout my life I’ve been addicted to one thing after another. Everything from shopping and working-out even after injury to nightclubbing almost every night and now I’m addicted to Writing. Trying to make this Addiction a positive part of my life.

March 25, 2009 at 5:14 am
(11) sapphiren says:

I agree that addictive behavior is a bipolar trate, I am bipolar and so is my oldest son, he is substance abuse and alcohol addicted even though we have had him in 4 different treatment centers before the age of 25, I have been trying to stop smoking for about 3 years now, each time something happens in my life that is hard for me to cope with I go right for a smoke, I am also addicted to sweets,when I am stressed, I eat a lot, mostly junk

March 27, 2009 at 8:35 pm
(12) Andy says:

Play card game on my Nano EVERY night in bed before I go to sleep, can’t turn out the lights without it, I call that an addiction. Ouch.

April 15, 2009 at 3:32 pm
(13) kat says:

I have too many “addictions” to count. I dont know if it is the bipolar or the ADHD. I too do the gardening thing. I will buy flowers and plants even when I have no clue where I will put them. I have 2 bags full of yarn and half-way knitted scarfs! I also collect rocks and marbles, make candles and sand decorations. All are works in progress, and I cant seem to stick to one for long. But its okay, my pdoc says: Who says you EVER have to have any of those things finished. It is you beating yourself up again! Have fun!

April 28, 2009 at 2:46 pm
(14) Robyn says:

I have to say part of it is OCD. Which i have several. I count, count lines on the road, colors of cars. Change trash in bedrooms, bathrooms everyday, cant handle having trash in them. Especially NO EMPTY hangers in the closet. OMG. drive me out of my mind. i have to go through everyones closet and get all empty hangers and prioritize them in color to hang in the laundry room. Ive tried leaving a couple of empty hangers in my closet, lasted about 2 hours. LOL. Im paranoid everyone is talking about me, watching me to find the worse in me or just blame me for something. Im never good enough for anything. But i put on my FACE and try anyways. :)

July 29, 2009 at 5:59 pm
(15) Ellen says:

This is the first time that i search the subject, and only after i started thinking about my behaviour and ppl commenting that this is not normal. Never reaaly thought that something was wrong, just always thought im eccentric… Im not totally sure that im a addictive personality, but i know im not balanced. I also would start with something, like fitness and eating, then ill read all about it, exercise like mad, eat healthy, then i will lose interest, and get hooked on pc games, then ill play all the time and only sleep like 4 hours a day, then that will be over, and ill get hooked onto gardening, and give all my energy into that. With that goes crazes for food, ill eat for a week, breakfast, midday, and the evening eggs, then it will be liqourice, then i will eat bottles and bottles of olives, and nothing else. I feel like a failure because it seems i cant do more than one thing at a time, or i never finish the things that i start.. Can someone give me advice, does it sound like a addictive personality, should i go see someone?

November 7, 2009 at 9:43 am
(16) James Hamilton Moore says:

The only thing that you can really be addicted to is heroin. I lot of what passes for addiction today is strictly people really enjoying something to the exclusion of other things; sex is a good example, and how can you want too much great sex? You may have a psychological need or feel you have to have something or really want something, but you are not addicted to it. The only thing you have to do is breathe, and the only things you need besides air are water and food. The proof is in the Los Angeles County Jail. Thousands of people enter that jail system constantly. No one is having a problem without their alcohol, their cigarettes, their cocaine, their meth, their sex, their marijuana, their internet, their television, etc. They may not like it, but they are not having any withdrawal symptoms, no absolute need to have. The heroin addicts on the other hand go through an extreme 72 hour withdrawal period, because they were truly addicted to heroin. And then guess what? Even they are okay. I would imagine they most want to get back to their “game,” but even so, at this point they can live on without it if only they choose to so. Please quit abusing the word addiction and please quit paying all those big bucks to have your “addiction” treated. All you have to do with any undesired behavior is quit. It’s your choice, except with heroin. I promise!

November 12, 2009 at 5:44 pm
(17) sarah says:

I don’t agree with you that heroin is the only real addiction. And I think most would disagree with you, given that alcoholism, gambling, and others (crack,cocaine,meth…and of course nicotine) are addictions and you are sure to go through withdrawals. You’re probably wondering what withdrawals from gambling are like? well I’ve never had a gambling addiction but I imagine during withdrawal they probably replace that addiction with others, like shopping, cutting themselves, or pulling out hair.

My issue, is marijuana, or at least I thought it was, I realize now, I have an escapist personality, not an addiction to pot.
My escapist personality causes me to sabotage regular activities like going for coffee with a friend, by smoking a joint , turning off my phone, and ignoring/avoiding life.

I can get into a book and days will pass without a shower or a proper meal. I can watch 8 movies in a day. I can sleep for 18 hrs at a time, and feel absolutely guilty about all of the above.
But that won’t stop me from doing it again and again.

I guess I’m writing about this because, well, it’s actually the first time I’ve looked into my problem. I take meds, but it’s more for depression. I suffer greatly from social phobia, groups, crowds, conversations with more than one person at a time.

I want to know if others out there feel like they sabotage their happiness, and what I can do about it.
I know what I should do, but I can’t. I can’t just change who I am.

October 12, 2010 at 10:20 am
(18) bipolar says:

I have had to close this thread to future comments because it is being spammed.

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