Most of us have a friend or family member who always seems to be drowning in a swirling pool of chaos. Perhaps it is a partner who constantly tries to push your buttons to get you to react, or it’s a sibling who just cannot seem to stay out of trouble. Regardless of how many times they have to be told or how many resources out there to help this said individual, he or she will always continue to find ways to keep their world constantly buzzing with unnecessary drama.
You may begin to wonder if they just love to create drama in their lives so they will have something to do. This is possible. But, it may also go a bit deeper than simply a love of conflict—it may be an addiction.
Identifying a Conflict Addict
A conflict addict may be characterized as a person who will risk everything for the thrill of an argument and the subconscious comfort that they find in instability. Relationships are not viewed as relationships to a conflict addict because, more than likely, they have had a lack of stable relationships their entire life. Instead, they view relationships as opportunities to satisfy the craving for chaos that they have become so accustomed to.
Take for instance the past few family gatherings that you have had that involved ending in arguments. Everyone is standing around, sharing stories, laughing and then Aunt Pam decides to tell your mother that her cooking is getting worse by the year… again. Of course your mother takes the bait and starts firing back. The argument continues relentlessly until finally your mother just walks away because that is the only way to end a conflict with a conflict addict. This isn’t just the first, second, or third time that Aunt Pam has ruined a social gathering, or even a visit from a friend or relative. Aunt Pam is known to leave a destructive path of relationships behind her, and she’s still looking for more bridges to burn.
This behavior doesn’t just stay within family gathering, however; this is essentially Aunt Pam’s entire life. Many of her family members may feel that she is just overly critical or perhaps jealous of those who she surrounds herself with. In reality, she is unable to form positive relationships simply due to her inability to not argue with someone. As a result, this behavior can lead to depression, anxiety, social dysfunction and even substance abuse.
The key then to identifying a conflict addict is the pattern and duration of the person’s overpowering desire to engage in conflict. What would make someone want to argue in what should be a time of happiness and celebration? Let’s find out.
The Scientific Mechanics
Within seconds of engaging in conflict, adrenaline floods the brain due to the stressful environment that conflict brings. If you win the conflict, your reward circuity in your brain will then tie this overwhelming feeling of accomplishment and confidence to the conflict itself. Once the conflict is over, the feeling is gone and your body goes through an adrenaline dump that mimic the symptoms of mild depression.
Just like a drug addiction your brain will then want more conflict. Enemies can be made out of anyone or anything just to get the same feeling from the first fight. Eventually it doesn’t matter how big the enemy is, and the harder it is to defeat the better because the euphoric feeling of adrenaline and confidence will last longer.
Sound familiar? It’s an addiction just like anything else.
Breaking the Stereotype
Conflict addiction is fairly unknown to a large majority of the population, but becoming educated on the signs can allow you or someone you know to get help for the constant need to be in a state of chaos. This type of addiction can be just as dangerous as drug addiction, because once addicted to conflict, people will intentionally put themselves in dangerous situations just to feel the rush. People on the other side of the conflict can also be wildly unpredictable. They could engage in your conflict in a constructive manner, or they could do harm.
So next time you encounter someone who is just “always looking for a fight” or “always in a bad mood,” remember that they could be suffering from this addiction and they need help before they start a conflict with the wrong person. While the afflicted person is in constant search of a bigger enemy to fight to get that rush that they will never feel again, they are failing to see the true enemy that lies within themselves.