The term addictive personality is used to describe individuals who are viewed as being predisposed to form some sort of substance addiction in their life.
However, this label can be problematic. Firstly, it creates the risk of assigning a negative personality type to individuals, potentially without proper justification. Furthermore, the concept of an addictive personality itself is not necessarily reliable in its definition or application to certain individuals.
Are Addictive Personalities a Myth?
- 1 Are Addictive Personalities a Myth?
- 2 What Are Some Traits That Can Contribute to Addiction?
- 3 The Lack of Self-Regulation and Addiction
- 4 Character Traits vs Character Defects
- 5 The Link Between Genetics and Addiction
- 6 Are There Environmental Risk Factors for Addiction?
- 7 Mental Illness and Developing an Addictive Personality
- 8 How to Help Someone With an Addictive Personality
- 9 What are the Basic Types of Addiction?
- 10 Can I Guard Against Developing an Addiction?
- 11 Why Should I Get Treatment for an Active Addiction?
- 12 Long Term Recovery With Evidence Based Practices
- 13 Finding the Best Treatment Options For Your Addiction Recovery
Most addiction research today states that there is no one personality that is more likely to develop an addiction than another. While certain personality traits might be present in multiple individuals struggling with addiction, these specific traits can exist as minor parts of completely contradicting whole personalities.
Thus, a social standard for what an addictive personality should look like might not actually provide an accurate understanding of what types of individuals are more likely to develop addictions.
What Are Some Traits That Can Contribute to Addiction?
For individuals who are concerned, they may be more susceptible to forming an addiction, finding out certain personality traits that constitute this description can be helpful. This might make them feel like they have more control over this supposed increased risk of addiction.
While there is no specific addictive personality type that necessarily indicates a predisposition to substance abuse, there are characteristics and factors that may make an individual more prone to this. Some examples of these traits may include:
- Family history of addiction
- Previous or currently existing personality or mental health disorder(s)
- Prone to adventurous, risky, and/or impulsive behavior
- Disconnected or highly cautious
- Obsessive and/or compulsive behavior
- Poor ability to self-regulate
Adventurous Risk Taking Trait
Individuals who struggle with impulse control and enjoy the thrill associated with taking risks may be more prone to developing an addiction to drugs or alcohol.
For example, the reward of a high associated with partaking in dangerous activities such as taking drugs (particularly psychoactive substances) may impair these individual’s ability to make healthy and responsible life choices. Some studies have found that this behavior may be linked to increased dopamine levels in the brain.
Dopamine and Brain Chemistry
According to these studies, high levels of dopamine in the brain can make people develop a lower sensitivity to this chemical. In order to feel the effects of this dopamine production, they must seek out more intense, thrill-inducing experiences.
Thus, abusing substances like drugs, which directly affect the dopamine system, may be more of a risk for these individuals.
Disconnected Cautious Trait
Quite the opposite to the risk-taking type, individuals who are more cautious and disconnected from others may also be at risk of developing an addiction. Because these individuals often struggle with forming social connections, they may be more prone to developing certain mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
In this case, substance use may be turned to as a form of self-medicating the difficult emotions associated with these conditions.
The Lack of Self-Regulation and Addiction
Self-regulation refers to an individual’s ability to regulate their thoughts, behaviors, and feelings, often leading to compulsive behavior or unmoderated habits.
Because the thought of a reward for engaging in a certain task or habitual behavior is so strong, impulse control and creating personal limitations may be incredibly difficult for individuals with poor or non-existent self-regulating skills. This often leads to an increased likelihood of not only alcohol or drug addiction, but other types of dependencies, such as a food addiction or binge eating habits.
Risk and Reward Reinforcement for an Addictive Personality
Furthermore, because this anticipation of a reward is so high, the satisfaction of obtaining it may be less than that of someone who does have the ability to self-regulate. Unfortunately, this may cause these individuals to further engage in unmoderated use of addictive or other substances, thus further increasing the amount needed to achieve a sense of satisfaction.
Character Traits vs Character Defects
When it comes to someone’s personality, certain traits may be viewed as being either positive or negative. If a trait is considered to be negative, it might be referred to as a “character defect.” For someone with an addictive personality, the aforementioned traits would, then, fall into this “defective” category.
This, however, can be a problematic description. After all, it suggests a level of blame on the behalf of these individuals for having these characteristics. When, in reality, the existence of these additional risk factors to their development of an addiction is completely outside of their control.
The Link Between Genetics and Addiction
Research has shown that there is a significant relationship between an individual’s genetics and their likelihood of forming substance use disorders. In fact, some studies suggest that family history determines nearly half of a person’s disposition to forming these habits.
While this can be incredibly difficult for individuals who have to take extra precautions to avoid continuing these familial tendencies, there are some upsides. For starters, this discovery of the role genes play in developing addiction presents geneticists with new opportunities for finding ways to treat and prevent this disease.
Are There Environmental Risk Factors for Addiction?
When it comes to addiction, the environmental factors of an addicted person can play an extensive role in the development and continuance of their dependency. This can include an individual’s home, work, school, or social environment.
Of course, some individuals may experience dramatically different conditions based on which of these environments they are in, thus varying the level of impact each has on their likelihood to develop an addiction.
An individual’s family members can play a role in their risk of developing an addiction in more ways than just genetics. Research has found that individuals who have experienced some form of childhood trauma are more prone to drug and alcohol abuse.
Furthermore, people raised in strict, overly-authoritative households, as well as individuals who lacked any parental involvement or structure, are also prone to increased addiction risk.
For those who are married to a person who uses or has frequent access to addictive substances, this may also increase the possibility of their development of a substance use disorder.
Having a stressful, demanding, or unstable work environment can, for many individuals, present a number of problems, including those involving their mental, physical, and behavioral health.
Co-occurring mental health conditions and substance use disorders are fairly common, particularly when individuals turn to alcohol or drug abuse as a means of avoiding the symptoms caused by these mental health issues.
Particularly for children in communities that are considered to be higher risk, or who have certain learning or other disabilities that can isolate them from their peers, school environments can play a large role in the development of an addiction.
For some individuals, high pressure to maintain a certain performance standard, whether in their grades, a school sports team, etc., can present the need to rely on substance use to do so. Unmoderated accessibility to addictive substances within a school environment can also increase the risk of dependency on them.
Other factors such as drug and alcohol educational resources, and school counseling services can all affect this risk as well. Schools that tend to have and promote equal access to these resources will likely have fewer cases of students developing addictive habits.
An individual’s social group can also increase their likelihood to participate in drinking to excess or drug use. If a person surrounds themselves with people who express addictive behaviors, that person will likely mimic this.
An extreme desire to fit in can keep individuals stuck in toxic friend groups and situations, increasing that person’s risk of substance abuse. While this factor is commonly seen in college students, it is applicable to anyone and presents a very real need to better identify what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.
Mental Illness and Developing an Addictive Personality
Another example of addictive personality traits can include mental illnesses. For many individuals, substance use may be a method of self-medicating, as they can numb some of the negative emotions and painful feelings that often result from a mental health condition.
Some of the mental health disorders most commonly linked with substance abuse include:
- Mood disorders such as depression or bipolar disorder
- Anxiety or panic disorder
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia
- Personality disorders
Personality Disorders and Addiction
Researchers have found that, within psychiatric clinics, patients with personality disorders (PDs) are commonly found to have co-occurring substance use disorders. The most commonly associated PDs with addiction are:
- Antisocial personality disorder
- Borderline personality disorder
While drugs and alcohol dependencies have not been found to cause personality disorders, they have been found to play a role in the development and the intensity of their side effects. For individuals with these personality types, seeking out therapy or counseling can help them find ways to manage the side effects of their specific PD that do involve the use of substances.
DSM-5 General Criteria for a Personality Disorder
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) defines a personality disorder as an impairment in the function of an individual’s personality in combination with the presence of pathological personality traits. In order for someone to be diagnosed with a personality disorder, they must meet the following criteria:
- Has significant impairments in sense of identity or self-direction, and ability to form empathetic or intimate relationships with others.
- Has one or more pathological personality traits (i.e., low emotional stability, antagonistic, extreme introversion, etc.) are particularly dominant in the individual.
- Impairments in the individual’s personality functioning and personality trait expression remain relatively stable across time and different situations/scenarios.
- Impairments in the individual’s personality functioning and personality trait expression cannot be attributed to their developmental stage or socio-cultural environment.
- These personality impairments cannot be attributed to the direct physiological effects of a substance (drug or alcohol abuse) or a general medical condition (i.e., severe head trauma or brain disease).
How to Help Someone With an Addictive Personality
If you know someone who has an addictive personality, it can be incredibly difficult to watch them struggle with potentially harmful or frustrating behaviors and feelings. However, help is available. For many individuals who seek out ways to manage their behavioral health, the outcome can lead to successful and sober lives.
You can help a loved one live a happy and healthy life simply by offering to help them find the care they need, supporting them in their goals of staying sober and making sure that you remember to take care of you and your needs as well.
What are the Basic Types of Addiction?
There are two main types of addiction, each with its own causes, side effects, and methods of treatment:
- Chemical addiction. This type of addiction involves the use of and dependence on substances (i.e., drugs or alcohol).
- Behavioral addiction. This type of addiction refers to compulsive behaviors, which are persistent and repetitive in nature, even if participating in them does not offer any actual reward.
Non-Substance Use Addictive Behaviors
Currently, there are only two behavioral addictions formally recognized by the DSM-5, which are gambling addictions and internet gaming disorders. However, this is mostly due to a lack of peer-reviewed studies around other compulsive behaviors or addictive activities (i.e., sex, exercise, etc.).
While there is a limited number of diagnosable behavioral addictions, it can be helpful to know how to recognize the patterns of behavior associated with them. These include:
- Large amounts of time spent engaging in a specific behavior.
- Urges to engage in a behavior despite possible negative impacts on work, responsibilities, or social life.
- Engaging in this behavior as a means of managing unwanted emotions.
- Hiding, lying, or otherwise avoiding disclosing the extent of participation in a specific behavior to others.
- Negative physical and emotional responses to attempting to quit this behavior; experiencing withdrawal symptoms.
- A compulsive need to engage in the behavior even if it causes distress.
Treating a Behavioral Addiction
While less research has been done regarding behavioral addictions, there are still several methods of treating and managing them. These may include:
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This specific form of therapy focuses on teaching individuals how to recognize negative thought patterns and emotions and implement ways of reframing these thoughts and their responses to them.
- General Therapy or Counseling. Seeking out therapeutic or counseling services, in general, can help identify and address any underlying causes that may be causing a need to engage in certain activities.
- Support Groups. Confiding in loved ones and seeking out support groups that focus on coping with addictive behaviors can also be extremely helpful for individuals who may be struggling with an addictive personality type.
Can I Guard Against Developing an Addiction?
If you know or suspect that you have an addictive personality, it makes complete sense that you would want to know how to prevent yourself from developing addictions.
Fortunately, extensive research done in behavioral sciences has helped produce various therapeutic means of helping individuals with addictive personalities learn to accurately identify and manage personality traits that may put them at a higher risk of substance abuse.
Some of the skills your therapist may provide you with include:
- How to manage your addictive personality through better regulating your thoughts, behaviors, and emotions.
- How to better practice impulse control in their basic routines, responsibilities, and activities.
- Mindfulness skills and breathing techniques as an alternative method of handling stressful situations.
- Surround yourself with healthy, supportive individuals who do not have addictive personalities or present certain addictive personality traits.
Seeking out professional help in managing an addictive personality can also help you or other individuals who may already have a drug or alcohol addiction in their recovery process and later maintain sobriety.
Why Should I Get Treatment for an Active Addiction?
If you or a loved one is actively struggling with an addiction, seeking out addiction treatment can seem intimidating. Being dependent on a substance can make stopping the use of it an extremely difficult process, especially if you are attempting to do so on your own.
However, abusing drugs and alcohol can pose a number of problems for individuals, putting them at high risk of health complications and, in extreme cases, death. Even just one addiction can cause serious damage to you and the people around you. While it can be scary to start treatment, it is most certainly in the best interest of you and your loved ones to do so as soon as possible.
There are a number of treatment facilities that specialize in specific types of care. Some of these may focus on specific types of addiction, while others may focus on individuals struggling with a dual diagnosis that aims to treat any underlying mental health concerns or psychological problems increasing their risk of addiction. This list of different treatment centers continues, and finding the right treatment option for you can be confusing.
Talking to your doctor or a medical professional can help narrow down which treatment options will be the most successful in treating your addiction.
Long Term Recovery With Evidence Based Practices
Long-term recovery options generally use evidence-based approaches that combine medically supported addiction treatments paired with various types of therapy in treating an individual’s dependence on drugs or alcohol.
Because addiction is a very subjective disease, the type of treatment required will vary on a case-by-case basis. Thus, personalized, long-term residential care options are always highly recommended for those who wish to overcome their addiction, as these will often give them the best chance for maintaining their sobriety after completing treatment.
Finding the Best Treatment Options For Your Addiction Recovery
While starting the treatment process can be intimidating, you do not have to do it alone. Here at Find Addiction Rehabs, our team is dedicated to helping you find the best treatment facilities and addiction recovery resources for you.
If you’re looking for more information, whether it is for yourself or a loved one, call our 24/7 hotline today and let us help provide answers and assistance in locating the top options across the country!
Nicole R. is an experienced and accomplished writer with special interests in the fields of Anthropology, English, and behavioral health, and has written countless articles for newspaper publications, institutional research journals, and Find Addiction Rehabs.
Her alma matter is Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. Nicole hopes to spread awareness of and combat the stigmatization surrounding addiction and substance abuse treatment through her writing and work in the field.