Success Addiction

Businessman behind prison bars

Is it Possible to be Addicted to Success?

“Before you can break out of prison, you must first realize you’re locked up.”


Dr. Rita Bernadette DeShields has been working since the 1970s with people suffering from addiction. She believes we can be addicted to anything, but at the root of all addiction is some unfinished business in our past that creates tension or emotion such as anger, loneliness, or angst.

A person who becomes addicted has learned that his or her addictive behavior assuages or calms the negative emotion. It fills a void, at least temporarily.

DeShields believes it is possible to become addicted to success and suggests the underlying emotion of such an addiction is probably low self-esteem. She also says that, with substances or physical addictions, there is actually a chemical reaction in the body that creates a state of relaxation and calms the negative emotions.

With success, it’s not a physical addiction, but we still experience an endorphin release in the brain that tells us we’re OK and keeps the underlying emotion at bay.

According to DeShields, until we fully understand the underlying emotion, we’ll keep repeating the behavior to soothe ourselves. She describes this as the “cycle of addiction.” She says when people spend beyond their means and rack up credit card debt trying to achieve more material possessions or to look or feel successful, they’re really trying to fill a void—an empty hole inside—that is really about loneliness.

“When you go buy the new coat or get a new job or a new car or new carpet, you’re filling that empty hole just like the alcoholic. It is very common. People are just not awake to it.”

~Dr. Rita Bernadette DeShields

Adapted from “Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” 


About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. Now she helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

1 comment on “Success Addiction

  1. Hello Debbie,
    It is morning in India, just read the article. I think you have boosted the day with a great motivation. I have the same feeling about success. For me important in life is what we call fulfillment. Success and Fulfillment are both infinite words, we can’t take these word as constant; rather, if we consider relatively I believe we can draw more meaning out of these words and enjoy every moment in.
    Rightly said addiction of being successful always ends up plugging the empty hole inside and it is a ongoing process until you realize.

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