CONFLICT ADDICTION: one’s craving for crisis

I’ve been watching something emerge for a number of years now, and think it may be time to put it out there as a potential issue for further study.

I’m concerned about the increasing incidence of conflict, even in the most unlikely of places.   There has never been a total absence of conflict, whether it be on a global level or in the family setting.  I’m told that the great preponderance of responses of police units is to domestic conflict, even in the most rural of settings.

But of late it seems that there are more and more people who thrive on conflict.  My perception is that they act as if they have become addicted to conflict in the same way that a person can become addicted to nicotine, alcohol, food, sex or illegal drugs.

That may sound strange, but just think about what you have seen over the past couple of years.  People become enraged at the slightest provocation and disrupt board meetings, school committee hearings, political rallies, or even mundane family gatherings, weddings, even funerals.

I’m conscious of individuals who seem magnetized to conflict.  They are drawn to it, cling to it, and won’t let it go.  When they talk about the issue their faces get red, their blood pressure soars, and … in the case of men, their testosterone seems to be raging through their system.   They have the look of anger on their faces, their language is loud and coarse, and their physical gestures are threatening.  But the irony is that they seem to be enjoying themselves.  I suspect that they have a conflict addiction.

My suspicion is that it is being fed, in part,  by our instantaneous flow of breaking news, commentary, and visual depictions of crises and conflicts throughout the world.    It seems that the more of that kind of information is available the more we hear of conflicts and belligerence.   In the most tempered of situations like school board meetings and political rallies  violent language and action has become almost common.

Granted, the unemployment and faltering economy have contributed to higher stress levels on everyone’s part, and may be a major contributor to the situation.  But I also sense that some people (an increasing number from my observation) have become almost addicted to crisis.   They seek it out, relish it, and thrive on it.  When it isn’t available, they create it.

That’s the part that bothers me.   There is enough crisis around for anyone with this love of conflict to thrive.   But at those moments when it is at a low, these people who I believe are addicted to crisis  jump in to create a crisis.  It is almost as if there is a physical urgency about needing that adrenaline flow they get from battle.   Arguing over the silliest of ideas morphs into a huge conflict, sometimes ending in physical combat.  In some cases we have read about violence that leads to gunshots or knifings.

I’m not a practicing psychologist, but if I were I would be interested in pursuing this concept to see if there is any measurable data which supports my suspicion of conflict addiction.  There are some articles posted on Google which make reference to the idea, but I’m not aware of any serious studies having been done on the subject. There may be value in  such a study.

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  1. Yes, there are people who do seem addicted to the chemical rush they get out of conflict, and yes they do seem to be like drug addicts or alcoholics in every sense, addicted to the chemical rush as well as the behaviors and disturbing mental attitudes that underline them. A lot of people grow up in households where one or more family members have a substance abuse or mental problem. And the disturbing environment generates a chemical rush within family members, some of whom will then try again and again to recreate that strong sensation by disturbing their social environment through the use of conflict. They like to rock the boat and damn the consequences. These are not productive or constructive people, socially speaking. A lot of time, they do as little as possible while running their mouths as much as possible, figuring that as long as they are running their mouths then they are in charge and running the show. But they are simply running their mouths.

  2. Lilcuttie says:

    Yes, conflict addiction is real. It can manifest itself as PTSD, and sufferers almost always have a history where crisis was a constant.

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