Addiction in Context: Philosophical Lessons from a Personality Disorder Clinic

Popular and neurobiological accounts of addiction tend to treat it as a form of compulsion. This contrasts with personality disorder, where most problematic behaviours are treated as voluntary. But high levels of co-morbidity, overlapping diagnostic traits, and the effectiveness of a range of comparable clinical interventions for addiction and personality disorder suggest that this difference in treatment is unjustified. Drawing on this range of clinical interventions, we argue that addiction is not a form of compulsion. Rather, the misuse of drugs and alcohol is like many of the problematic behaviours associated with personality disorder: it is typically a way of coping with psychological distress. We suggest that a satisfying explanation of why many addicts struggle to control their use can be given without departing from concepts employed in our basic folk psychological understanding of agency. In particular, we appeal to five rough-and-ready folk psychological factors to explain addiction: (i) strength of desire and habit; (ii) willpower; (iii) motivation; (iv) functional role; and (v) decision and resolve
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