Addiction is a complex mental health condition that involves alterations to the brain’s reward and pleasure centers, leading to corresponding cognition, behavior, and motivational changes. Experts believe that a combination of environment, genetics, and family history may all contribute to an individual’s risk of engaging in substance abuse or developing an addiction throughout life.
These factors may display themselves in an individual’s personality in several ways, indicating an increased risk of dependence on drugs or alcohol. Such personality traits are sometimes referred to as an addictive personality, a psychological term that has been oft-debated by health professionals and other experts.
The Addictive Personality: Fact or Fiction?
Today, many researchers in the addiction field warn against adopting the concept of a single, generic personality type that is particularly susceptible to substance abuse. Moreover, no single personality type can be associated with the development of addiction. Some seemingly disparate characteristics can cause different people to develop an addiction to drugs or alcohol, depending on other essential factors.
Although many traits can be identified in those who experience substance abuse issues, they certainly do not all exist in every individual who does. That said, the most common addictive personality characteristics include the following:
People who experience substance abuse problems often display poor impulse control. Moreover, they may be more prone to making impromptu decisions with little or no consideration. This effect directly plays into experimenting with drugs and alcohol—thereby affecting the brain’s dopamine system.
In this way, a person who has a personality profoundly geared toward risk-taking and adventure-seeking may have an increased likelihood of using and, over time, developing a dependence on these substances.
The Obsessive-Compulsive Trait
Substance abuse is frequently associated with a lack of impulse control, but this does not mean that a person does not have a complete inability to resist urges. In fact, individuals who struggle with the regulation of impulses may also resort to using substances as a symptom of an obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern.
Indeed, addiction tends to develop based on a compulsion to use over time rather than as a single impulse to experience something new. That is, addiction is largely a product of the repeated use of a substance, the development of dependence upon it, and the resulting drug-seeking behavior indicative of a chronic disease, instead of an acute reaction to a single urge.
For this reason, individuals with highly-structured, habitual behaviors may be as likely to develop an addiction as those who are less able to control impulses. The compulsion to use drugs and alcohol is a prime symptom of the disorder. Still, it can exist both separate from and in combination with poor impulse control.
Many individuals who use substances do so because they experience more stress than others. In many cases, this stress is self-imposed, such as when a person prefers high-pressure professions or actively indulges in excessive concerns about the future.
People who suffer from mood disorders, such as anxiety or bipolar disorder, tend to be susceptible to experiencing high stress levels due to brain chemistry imbalances. Without an appropriate medical diagnosis and treatment, these persons may turn to alcohol or drug use as a method of self-medication.
Poor Self-Worth and Self-Esteem
Repeated abuse of psychoactive substances can rapidly adversely affect brain chemistry. Nevertheless, people who suffer from depression, low self-esteem, or have a significant amount of personal stress may attempt to self-medicate to quell these feelings.
For instance, they may drink too much at a party to reduce social inhibitions or use stimulants to complete tasks that require alertness or energy. They may genuinely want to feel positive about themselves. Still, the substance use frequently goes too far, resulting in induced or worsened mood disorders, contributing to a propagation of the person’s original poor self-image.
Lack of Future Goals
Although the stereotypical addictive personality is often characterized by laziness, carelessness, and the seeking of continuous stimulation, these are not the only possible characteristics. An individual who is very ambitious and competitive may also have an addictive personality, revealing itself as the person tends to avoid establishing specific and realistic future goals.
Moreover, even if an individual is highly-focused on their job, family, or other pursuances, they may not have a clear idea of what they actually want out of life. This problem can be amplified by consuming psychoactive substances, leading the person to question whether they have a future to look forward to.
Isolation and Social withdrawal
Social isolation may be the consequence of abusing drugs, intense focus on work or school, or a negative self-image and hesitance to socialize. Alienation from friends or family signifies that the individual may be abusing drugs or alcohol and at risk of developing an addiction.
For example, a person may feel like they need to drink to make social situations less stressful or, conversely, stimulants to concentrate on work, causing them to feel “strung out” and avoid interactions with family and friends.
These characteristics all have in common an individual’s inability to regulate thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that could enable a capacity to manage substance use. Studies have recently suggested that a failure to control behavior under the anticipation of receiving a reward is strongly associated with addiction development.
However, this is not the entire scope of the problem. Individuals who seek certain rewards frequently do not experience the same amount of satisfaction from having received the so-called reward as others do. This diminished sense of pleasure compels the person to push harder to achieve more feelings of reward in the hope that the reward response might be more intense.
Again, this is linked to the person’s dopamine levels and their sensitivity to them as well as other neurotransmitters, such as adrenaline and serotonin, that are responsible for feelings of pleasure and reward.
Getting Treatment for Substance Abuse and Addiction
Various psychotherapies can help persons struggling with substance abuse and addiction disorders learn how to regulate their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors better. Likewise, this can help them develop the self-regulation skills needed to manage their addictive responses to stimuli.
For those who have already experienced substance abuse problems, treatment programs can include these therapies with other evidence-based treatments such as individual and family counseling and group support. Using a multi-faceted approach to treat substance abuse and other co-occurring conditions may help the individual safely discontinue drug alcohol abuse and regain control over the many traits described above.
Seeking out professional help can provide the individual with the tools, education, and resources they need to understand and effectively manage these various traits, thereby making a full recovery possible.
Just Believe Recovery is a specialized treatment center that offers comprehensive treatment programs that feature all the services, therapies, and activities that people struggling with addiction problems will find beneficial to help them reclaim their lives, free from harmful substances and unhealthy habits.