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Addictive Personality Relationship Problems

author image Ashley Miller
Ashley Miller is a licensed social worker, psychotherapist, certified Reiki practitioner, yoga enthusiast and aromatherapist. She has also worked as an employee assistance program counselor and a substance-abuse professional. Miller holds a Master of Social Work and has extensive training in mental health diagnosis, as well as child and adolescent psychotherapy. She also has a bachelor's degree in music.
Addictive Personality Relationship Problems
Two adult women having a serious conversation. Photo Credit: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Wavebreak Media/Getty Images

People who have addictive personality disorders may experience a host of problems in relationships. Addictive personality types may have difficulty making or keeping friends, experience recurring problems in their relationships with family or friends, and may also suffer from troubled relationships in the workplace. Craig Nakken, author of "The Addictive Personality," explains that the addictive personality disorder includes a broad array of addictions, including alcoholics, drug or food addicts, compulsive gamblers, shoplifters, workaholics and addictive spenders. These people suffer not only in their personal relationships but also in their relationship with themselves, dealing with shame and fear of their compulsive behaviors.

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Conflict-Centered Relationships

Conflict-centered relationships are a key issue for addictive personalities. The low self-esteem, feelings of inadequacy and guilt that many people with addictive personalities suffer from creates conflict in relationships because they constantly make value judgments and comparisons with others. Lee L. Jampolsky, author of "Healing the Addictive Personality: Freeing Yourself from Addictive Patterns and Relationships," explains that addictive personalities constantly compare themselves to others, have unrealistic expectations of others and make negative judgments based on their feelings of unworthiness and insecurity. Conflict ensues because the other person can never live up to the expectations set by the addict. Since the addict may realize this on some level, they vacillate between self-blame and blaming the other, creating a source of constant conflict.


Addictive personalities generally suffer from trust issues stemming from childhood and issues related to fear of abandonment. In his book, Lee Jampolsky discusses that these trust issues may have roots in the addict's desire to control every situation in his or her life. Their addiction may stem from a lack of love or a lack of security developed in childhood, and they may feel as though they cannot truly trust anyone but themselves. The addiction serves to mask this feeling, which usually finds its roots in feelings of fear and inadequacy. Because they can never truly control anyone's behavior but their own, the addict may have problems trusting anyone in their life, feeling that they will eventually be betrayed or abandoned.

People-pleasing Behavior

The addict's inherent low self-esteem and feelings of inadequacy may lead to people-pleasing behaviors. Lee Jampolsky states that people-pleasing behaviors often prove as addictive as any drug, labeling this as "compulsively-other focused" behavior. Others may refer to this as codependency, which is an inability to separate the self from others and the compulsion to constantly make others happy, putting the needs and desires of others ahead of their own. states that addicts lose their sense of self with people-pleasing behavior, in that their desire to obtain external approval compromises their sense of self-worth and self-esteem. Other people may become put off by this behavior, feeling that they are in a relationship with someone who is a shadow of a person, who has no thoughts or desires of their own.

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  • "The Addictive Personality: Understanding the Addictive Process and Compulsive Behavior"; Craig Nakken, MSW; 1996
  • "Healing the Addictive Personality: Freeing Yourself from Addictive Patterns and Relationships"; Lee M. Jampolsky, Ph.D.; 2008
  • People Pleasing
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