Personality profiles of substance and behavioral addictions

Addict Behav. 2018 Jul;82:174-181. doi: 10.1016/j.addbeh.2018.03.007. Epub 2018 Mar 6.


Substance-related and behavioral addictions are extremely prevalent and represent a major public health concern. In the ongoing attempt to understand the addictive personality, contradictory results have arisen from studies that have explored personality traits in different addiction populations. The diversity across addiction types suggests that some of these inconsistencies stem from distinct personalities underlying each addiction. The present study compares the personality profiles of several addictions, representing both substance (drugs and alcohol) and behavioral (gambling and sex) subtypes. 216 addicted individuals and 78 controls completed personality and sociodemographic questionnaires. Notable personality distinctions were found among different types of addiction. Whereas impulsivity and neuroticism were higher across all addiction populations, as compared to controls, people with alcohol use disorders also scored significantly lower on the traits of extraversion, agreeableness, and openness to experience. People with drug use disorders and those with compulsive sexual behavior were surprisingly similar, scoring lowest on the traits of agreeableness and conscientiousness. Finally, people with gambling disorder demonstrated a personality profile similar to that of the control group. Of note, personality profiles were also related to several demographic characteristics, including socioeconomic status and religiosity. Our findings support a potential role for personality in distinguishing among different types of addiction. This study suggests that different addictions may, to some extent, stem from distinct processes that are involved in personality development. These findings may provide a useful framework for understanding why different people develop different addictions.

Keywords: Addiction; Behavioral addiction; Big-five; Impulsivity; Personality; Religiosity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcoholism / psychology
  • Alcoholism / rehabilitation
  • Behavior, Addictive / psychology*
  • Behavior, Addictive / rehabilitation
  • Character*
  • Compulsive Behavior / psychology
  • Compulsive Behavior / rehabilitation
  • Correlation of Data
  • Female
  • Gambling / psychology
  • Humans
  • Israel
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuroticism
  • Personality Disorders / psychology
  • Personality Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Rehabilitation Centers
  • Religion and Psychology
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Surveys and Questionnaires