The differential role of impulsivity, neuroticism, and negative affect within and across scores on measures of behavioral addiction and substance abuse.
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Sejud, Laura R.
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Behavioral addictions (BAs) are generally characterized as excessive behaviors (not involving psychoactive substance use) that produce short-term rewards and persist despite adverse consequences or attempts to control them. The study of behavioral addictions is timely as many of these disorders are under consideration for inclusion in the upcoming Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders Fifth Edition (DSM-5). These behaviors include gambling, shopping, exercise, work, sex, Internet use, video gaming, and binge eating. Evidence suggests the phenomenology and development of BAs often overlaps with substance addictions. In terms of personality, impulsivity, neuroticism, and negative affect are strongly associated with substance addictions. Limited available evidence suggests these traits may also influence the development and maintenance of behavioral addictions. This study examined these three factors within and across eight theorized BAs and substance abuse. Three-hundred-thirty-four University students and 255 online participants completed a wide range of self-report instruments measuring BAs, substance use, impulsivity, neuroticism, and negative affect. Results showed impulsivity was positively correlated with every addictive behavior and substance abuse except work and exercise, which were negatively related. Additionally, there were significant differences between samples when examining the roles of neuroticism and negative affect. The older, more pathological sample registered stronger correlations, suggesting neuroticism and negative affect may be more predictive of addictive patterns later in life or in those with greater levels of co-morbid mental illness. As a result, BAs may be conceptualized as lying at the two poles of a continuum of inhibitory control, despite similar phenomenology and functional impairments. This study suggests the end stages of BAs may look similar, although particular BAs, such as work and exercise addictions, may have different initial motivators or reinforcement mechanisms.