Everyone has probably heard the term ‘an addictive personality’, referring to those of us who are more likely to develop an addiction. It wasn’t something I’d thought much about, almost a throw away comment but then I began to think about it more. For some of us, one thing, whether it’s a drink, a lottery ticket or a bit of chocolate, can be enough. For others, (like me), one of something is seldom enough.
I knew a long time ago, and others have noticed, that when I like something I tend to through myself into it wholeheartedly. Like drinking; I gave that my full attention and I got really good at it. Now I don’t do it at all. There have been other things too, but probably the main one that stands out over recent years is running. I started as a hobby, to try to calm my mind, to help me relax, and hopefully lose some baby weight. Instead, I started a competition with myself. It had to be further and further and faster and faster. On the days I had as rest days, which you are supposed to have, even as an elite athlete, I used to worry that I was being lazy. I would think that in those few hours that I didn’t run, that my fitness and speed were ebbing away. It was just another thing for me to worry about and I hated it.
I started to run for fun, I never anticipated doing anything more than enjoy it for myself, but less than a year after I started running I had done four half marathons. I just kept throwing challenge after challenge at myself. Once 5k was an achievement, then 10k, then a half marathon. I was up to 20 miles and hoping for a full marathon when Covid stopped me in my tracks.
Some habits aren’t so bad and I think in hindsight being obsessed with running is a lot better than being obsessed with wine, but I find it interesting how certain people get grabbed by that insatiable need for something when others can take it or leave it.
It’s thought that genes might have something to do with your personality. Studies that followed some children, focussing on those from addicted families who were adopted by those without addictions found that genes are responsible for about 50% of the chance of you becoming addicted. Other factors are also in play here though, for example friendship groups, education and the environment you grow up and live in, all contribute to the way you become.
Interestingly, it is also thought that those who experience anxiety and depression can be at a higher risk of experiencing an addictive personality. It is thought that those suffering from this type of personality can be very sensitive to emotional stress and struggle with certain situations, even if those situations don’t seem challenging to others. It is also suggested that those with an addictive personality jump from one addiction to another. I can see how this might happen, at least in my case, and to be honest, it is something I am aware of, although as we all know, addictions can creep up, seemingly out of nowhere.
I suppose it’s just something to be aware of really isn’t it? I assume these things have been affecting others for years, it’s just now we’re more able to be vocal about it, to talk to others and share our experiences. I know from the way I worry and how anxious I get, that it is easy to fall into the trap of setting up coping strategies to help me through. I also know that when I can’t employ these coping strategies for some reason, things get worse. I feel worse. So while it may be important to learn ways of coping and dealing with stress or difficult situations, we should be aware that we aren’t creating other habits that we come to rely on instead of our original habits.
I think like a lot of things, being aware, and not hiding from our problems helps here. We need to catch our problems before they become too big, whatever they are, and sometimes that means dealing with them head on, even when it’s scary to do so.
But, as always, whatever you’re doing, just remember to be kind to yourself. We’re all doing the best we can.
Thanks for reading,