“Addicted to Insight”  is a term that describes people who seem to get “high” on learning and discovering.  They are driven to understand how things work and why.  The source of this drive or addiction is often a personality trait called “systemizing.”  When this trait is uncommonly intense, it is called “hyper-systemizing.”

Personality traits are like skin color, there are many shades of intensity and a variety of tones. Our understanding of the systemizing trait is still evolving, but people who have it to such an intense degree that it qualifies as “hyper-systemizing” seem to instantly understand why I call it an addiction to insight.  We tend to recognize ourselves instantly when we hear the term “addicted to insight.”

The hyper-systemizing personality trait affects our lives in many ways. In particular, people with this trait often find that close relationships with people can be quite stressful. They may even prefer to interact with people via books, phone or online.

Although the systemizing personality trait is primarily studied by neuroscientists and psychologists with an interest in asperger’s and autism, many people with ADHD also have this trait. In fact, everyone has it to some degree.

Being “addicted to insight” may also be thought of as “addicted to learning” — having such a strong drive to understand and learn that you actually get “high” from learning. Feeling intense joy from learning something new has been found to have a BIOLOGICAL basis in the brain, nervous system, and in the endocrine systems.



Are you Addicted to Insight?

Some people’s brains are literally HARD WIRED to pursue insight and the systemization of knowledge and understanding. Addiction to insight can affect your life in many ways.  It can show up as:

    • looking like you are absent-minded about daily life because you have a tough time fully disengaging from thinking about something once your brain is “hooked.” For example if you are trying to solve a puzzle, answer an intriguing question, etc. Once you get “hooked” on a question or problem, it’s almost impossible for you to stop until you figure out an answer.
    • being interested in things that most people find boring
    • being so bored by small talk it almost physically hurts
    • being bored by things that come easily to you or that you have mastered
    • frequently challenging other people’s version of the facts if they do not feel accurate, precise, thorough or complete to you
    • asking more questions than other people are comfortable with
    • being easily distracted by interesting new ideas
    • caring very deeply about “optimizing,” making things better, or feeling compelled to maximize potential wherever possible
    • needing things to be “just so” or “as good as they can be” which can make you seem like a control freak / perfectionist to others.

If any of these sound like you, welcome to the tribe!

This trait explains many of my own personality characteristics just as much as ADHD does. My hope is to gather up research and case studies to raise even greater awareness of how this trait affects our daily lives and relationships.

Many of us who have this trait are often labeled by others as one or more of the following. And, sadly, they use these labels as though they were insults.

  • “idealist”
  • “challengers”
  • “seekers”
  • “serious”
  • “perpetual students”
  • “philosophers”
  • “non-conformists”

Depending on other variables in your life and personality makeup, these traits may have gotten you labeled as:

  • geek
  • someone who “thinks too much”,
  • know-it-all
  • stubborn
  • rigid
  • too critical
  • too sensitive
  • perfectionist
  • procrastinator
  • chronically messy or disorganized
  • chronically late or neurotically punctual
  • impatient
  • wordsmith
  • someone who doesn’t finish what you start
  • someone who can’t stop what they are doing until it’s finished (aka prone to obsessing over certain kinds of projects)

If you are addicted to insight, I’m sure you can add your own personal examples here : )

I am excited about helping people understand how this addiction works. People with these traits have many positive traits but have been so maligned by pop culture and psychology that they often feel deeply misunderstood, unappreciated and invalidated by therapists,  teachers, spouses and even by others with the same traits.

Our personality traits are uncommon, and that can be the source of significant, frequent, and disheartening conflict and emotional distress.

When we understand ourselves with less judgment, it’s easier to harness this trait and transform it into a super strength. When we learn to become more “agile” in the way we live with this “addiction” we become increasingly

  • able to deal with and modify behaviors we don’t understand
  • more selective about how we indulge our addiction, and
  • more able to relate to others
  • empowered to manage daily life in a satisfying way without feeling like we are being dishonest or untrue to ourselves.

If you’d like to join this conversation with me, I’d love to hear your thoughts, reactions and experiences with the stuff I write about here.

Who knows? Maybe someday it will become a book to help us and the people who love us better understand why we are this way and why we can’t change ourselves even though we really want to get along better with others.

Some things will never be as easy for us as they are for most people…but then again, we can do things they can’t, too.

By mastering Agile Self-Leadership, Personal Agility Habits and the 10 Mantras of AgiliZen, we can learn how accommodate our quirkiness and be ourselves while also developing our ability to negotiate and adapt to social situations where we must work a little harder at getting along with people who just don’t get us.

Ultimately, our life satisfaction and overall well-being lies in learning how to harness the intense emotional rewards we experience from “getting it right” and use it as the super-strength it has the potential to become.


Our power lies in the place where WE get to define for ourselves what “getting it right” means. Getting it right is a spectrum – not an absolute. Sometimes getting it right actually means being willing and able to get it wrong with grace.


Meditate on that insight for a while and let me know what bubbles up for you! : )


 Insight Offering


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6 thoughts on “Welcome to Addicted to Insight!

  • December 11, 2014 at 11:31 pm

    I understand and appreciate the meaning of your insight statement, but am puzzled (and irritated) by the way in which it was stated. Did you intentionally substitute “were” for “where” in the first sentence? And did you intentionally leave out the “to” that belongs in front of the “be” in the second sentence? Were you using these glitches as tools for flushing out people like me?

    • December 16, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for taking the time to share your feedback! I’ve made some changes. I appreciate your spark to make this clearer!

  • January 1, 2015 at 7:54 pm

    I love this article! Ever since i was a child I would obsess about almost every topic that sparked curiosity. And would drive my grand parents crazy by asking “why” or “who would win between a lion and a bear in a fight” ? When i discovered the internet was a tool to answer most often any question i come across daily. I tend to get lost in multitasking of researching how other people think, or pretty much everything that may relate to me. I tend to look absent minded at my job or my family looks concerned about me. Most often they worry that i have heavy thoughts on my mind. I get labeled as trying to be “the smartest one in the room” and that is hard for me, to hold back information that i always feel is relevant that others don’t really listen

    • January 3, 2015 at 9:33 am

      Michael, thanks for your note! Sounds like you are definitely “one of us” : ) Internet addiction is very common among us – as is infomania in general. Many of us hoard books, magazines, articles etc. Just having a name for for it has helped me see it differently and manage it so much more effectively. Hope you experience similar benefits!

  • January 8, 2015 at 10:54 pm

    This is awesome.

    Thank you this article, Ariane.

    All of your points are right on.

    For those that are reading: thegreatcourses (renamed from The Teaching Company – TTC) is an invaluable resource to satiate your thirst for knowledge. I have devoured hundreds of courses (some close to a dozen times) over the past 9 years.

    The downside of this “addiction” is that you have an opinion on almost everything. However, it can be channeled for good and allows you to be an excellent conversationalist …. if you channel your energies and interactions in the right way.

  • February 8, 2015 at 11:42 pm

    Hi how’s it going? It’s 9 o’clock and I’m up reading this article and it is very interesting. For some reason I’m not able to go to sleep without learning something new, I’ve been surfing the internet for about an hour or two. Before coming across this article I was always wondering whether or not learning can be a real addiction because I haven’t met anybody who loves to learn as much as I do, my friends and family are always calling me a nerd because I’d rather be at school than anywhere else and I’d rather be reading, writing, or solving problems than anything else.

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