A recent article in Forbes magazine called ‘Why the Brains of High Powered People May Be More Prone to Addiction‘ discusses how successful people (such as CEOs and other leaders) may be at a higher risk of developing an addiction. The article suggests that the traits that make it possible for these people to become successful are similar to the traits that make people more likely to become dependent on alcohol and drugs. There is already a good deal of research into the idea that high-powered people are more likely to have sociopathic or psychopathic tendencies, and this new evidence suggests that they might also be wired for addiction as well.
The stereotype of leaders and those who fall into addiction would suggest that these two types of individual could not be further apart. It might even be argued that it is the lack of the things that make leaders successful that puts people on a path towards addiction. A closer look at the personalities of both these groups of people though, shows that they have far more in common than we have previously assumed. In fact, it might be reasonable to say that it is the same character traits that make some people successful that makes other people fall into addiction.
The addictive personality refers to a number of character traits that tend to be found among people who fall into addiction. These aspects of their personality includes things like a willingness to take risks, desire for instant success with goals, impulsiveness, novelty seeking behaviour, and obsession. All of these character traits have also been found to account for why most business people are successful.
The CEO and the drug addict may be driven by the exact same internal mechanism. They are both involved in pleasure seeking and trying to gain a hit from their body’s reward system. The person who develops a substance abuse problem habituates their reward system to using these chemicals, while the high-powered person habituates their reward system to business success.
Perhaps the only real difference between a person who falls into addiction and the person who becomes a high-powered achiever is where they channel their character traits. Of course, there are also plenty of examples of high achievers who later end up addicted to alcohol or drugs, and people in recovery who later become successful in business.
Many people would say that the fact that their personality helps them become successful is a good thing. They would argue that if something isn’t broken, there should be no need to fix it. The number of these people who also abuse alcohol or drugs is believed to be very high, but it is hard to tell because high functioning addicts are much better at hiding their problems. These individuals are also far more likely to turn to prescription medication and alcohol.
Other experts are saying that the fact that high-powered people are at more risk of addiction needs to be dealt with. They point out that if these individuals go into meltdown (which does happen) they not only ruin their own life but also those of the employees who depend on them to make good decisions. In fact, these people may be a danger to society as a whole because their own meltdown could have a significant impact on the economy. It is obvious that this is a problem that requires further research and new ideas for how it should be dealt with.