What is an addictive personality?
When you think about people who have become addicted to drugs or alcohol, there are images that immediately spring to mind. The most stereotypical one is the image of an “addictive personality.” Someone who is seemingly going to develop a substance addiction irrespective of what happens in their life.
It’s therefore unsurprising that people who are worried about a drug or alcohol addiction will perform a lot of research about addictive personality traits. They want to know the signs to look out for in order to decide they are not an addict or to help determine that they need to steer clear of substances in the first place. However, this notion is not entirely factual.
Is there such a thing as an addictive personality?
There isn’t a specific addictive personality. Most addiction specialists would in fact argue against the idea of any single personality that is prone to an addiction and there are studies to that effect. There is an argument that some disparate traits may result in different people going on to develop a drug or alcohol addiction, dependent on factors such as personal circumstances.
There are several addictive personality traits, but not all of them are present in everyone who goes on to become a drug or alcohol addict. The stereotype of the socially outcast or criminal as an addict is wildly inaccurate.
Addictive personality traits include but are not limited to people who are adventurous and risk taking, experience other mental health disorders, are obsessive and compulsive and are unable to self-regulate. These traits are often found in people who have an enhanced risk of becoming addicted to substance use.
There is also evidence that their genetic makeup will also affect someone’s risk of developing an addiction. Those who have had a close family member struggle with a drug or alcohol addiction are themselves more likely to develop an addiction of their own later in life. Studies have determined that parts of the human genome have a direct connection to certain addictions. With this in mind, it’s easier to determine how likely it is that someone will develop an addictive personality disorder. Of course, there is no guarantee of an addiction developing as there are other more complex factors at play, such as home environment.
Existing mental health conditions
Alongside a genetic connection, another trait that corresponds with higher risks of developing an addiction is a pre-existing mental health condition. Those who suffer with mental health conditions are more likely to develop an addiction. Examples of mental health conditions that carry this greatest risk of addiction are bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and schizophrenia.
Over the last few decades there have been numerous studies that have, as an example, proven a strong link between nicotine addiction and schizophrenia. The same study has proven that nicotine does lessen the effects of some symptoms of schizophrenia. Therefore, cigarette usage is common and this kind of self-medication can later become a more problematic kind of substance abuse in the form of an addiction
Addictive personality traits
There are several different kinds of addictive personality traits, each one completely different from the rest and some of those traits carry a higher risk of addiction than others.
Those who like to be adventurous and take risks tend to have minimal impulse control with regards to experimenting and new experiences are much susceptible to trying and becoming addicted to drugs. Studies indicate this is likely due to an individual’s dopamine levels and the brain’s sensitivity to these levels.
Those with high levels of dopamine in their brain generally have a lower sensitivity to its effects, which means that more intense experiences are required to have the feeling of pleasure that dopamine, a brain chemical, causes. As a consequence, this can link to an individual’s experience of taking drugs and alcohol – both of which affect dopamine levels. Because of this, the thrill seeking, risk taking personality is more likely to experiment with substances and unfortunately develop an addiction later down the line.
The bold, risk taking type who develops an addiction is generally more likely to be a male. On the opposite site of this, cautious people who struggle with social relationships are more likely to be female. These are people who likely suffer with anxiety, depression or both. These personality traits are likely to cause people to try and manage the symptoms of depression and anxiety and the pain of loneliness or disconnection from society by using drugs or alcohol which can then degenerate into an addiction.
Addiction is often a result of an individual having limited impulse control, but this isn’t just an inability to resist impulse or urges. Those who are overly rigid with their impulse management often use substances as a consequence of an obsessive-compulsive behaviour. Addiction often develops from a compulsion to use a substance based on the habit that has developed over time as opposed to an impulse to attempt something new and different.
All of these traits have one thing in common – the inability of individuals to regulate their behaviours, feelings and thoughts. This leads to an inability to moderate their consumptions of substances like drugs and alcohol. Studies show that being unable to regulate behaviour when expecting to receive a reward is very strongly connected to an addiction developing.
Treatment for personality disorder
There is no cure for addictive personality disorder, but it can be treated. There are various types of behavioural therapies that can help people to learn how to manager their own behaviours. These therapies also help people to learn self-regulation. Those who have already developed additions can be treated to help them safely stop substance abuse and to live their life free of addiction.
The Rehab Clinic Group is here to provide professional, compassionate care to help individuals to recover from their illness and to manage these personality traits. If you have concerns over an addictive personality, or you’re worried about a friend or a relative, call us today on 0800 470 0382 or text HELP to 83222 and our compassionate and caring staff can help you today.