The phrase “addictive personality” gets tossed around quite a bit nowadays. When you think of an addictive personality, you might think of a relative who can’t quit their smoking habit. You might think of your friend’s addiction to Candy Crush. You might think of your son, now off at college, who is getting more into the drinking and partying scene. You may here because you are concerned.
On the other hand, you might be here out of concern for yourself: You’ve been drinking or using drugs for some time, and want to know what to watch for should an addiction start to develop. Can you use drugs recreationally, without being labeled or becoming an “addict”? What signs are indicative that you may be predisposed to addiction? If you believe you do not have an addictive personality, why are your friends telling you otherwise? How do you know if you have an addictive personality? Can you know?
These are just some of the many questions that might be running through your mind. And like many, you might be looking for concrete answers and telltale signs of an addictive personality. Unfortunately, drug addiction is complex. Personalities are also complex. This makes the answers to your questions a little more complicated, as well.
There are many signs of drug addiction, from physical lassitude to behavioral vicissitudes, that will indicate whether you or a loved one needs professional help. But spotting an addictive personality is a bit more tough, given that it is not an official diagnosis nor does it have a universal definition. Addictive personality, rather, is a colloquial term based on the notion that certain people have a certain set of character traits that make them susceptible to drug addiction. But this is not necessarily the case. Personalities are multi-faceted, and addiction is not one-size-fits-all. There is no single face of addiction. Drug addiction, clinically referred to as a substance use disorder, can happen to anyone.
Of course, some people are more prone to substance addiction than others. And there are certain, contributing factors that make these users more susceptible. Risk factors include, but are not limited to:
- Genetics – Time and time again, it’s been proven that there is a genetic component to addiction. In fact, scientists estimate that biology is responsible for 40 to 70 percent of your likelihood of developing a substance use disorder. This does not mean that you are destined for a life of drug abuse if you have a history of addiction in the family. Staying on track with your education, choosing the right friend groups, and making responsible decisions can keep addiction away.
- Environment – One’s propensity towards addiction is highly influenced by their surrounding environment: their community (Were drugs easily available?), their home environment (How was their parents’ relationship throughout childhood?), social circles (Were they peer pressured to try drugs?), as well as economic status and the presence of role models in their life.
- Mental Health Issues – It is well-known that drug addiction and mental health issues go hand-in-hand: these are known as co-occurring disorders, and affect approximately nine million Americans today. Mental health disorders that often coincide with substance use disorders include depression, anxiety or panic disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and antisocial personality disorder.
- Trauma – According to recent research, people who have experienced trauma in their lives are four times more likely to become an alcoholic and four times more likely to inject drugs, putting them at greater risk for substance addiction. It is also estimated that up to 59 percent of young people with PTSD develop drug abuse problems later in life.
- Extreme Personality Traits – Here is where the idea of the “addictive personality” comes in. Often, adolescents and young adults whose temperaments stand out – those who are outliers from their peers – may be at greater risk for becoming addicted to drugs. And this does not always mean the isolated and antisocial individuals. Sometimes, teenagers who are obsessive compulsive, who have a fear of messing up or standing out too much, are at highest risk. Sometimes, it is those who have particularly high IQs, those who lack self-control, those who are overly anxious, that might be highly prone. Are these signs of an addictive personality? Not necessarily, though they may put one at greater risk for drug problems down the road.
George Koob, the director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, elucidates, “What we’re finding is that the addictive personality, if you will, is multifaceted… It doesn’t really exist as an entity of its own.” Only 18 percent of people with addiction, for example, also have personality disorders characterized by lying, stealing, and antisocial behavior – traits we often, and often wrongfully, associate with drug addiction.
If the question, “Do I have an addictive personality?” is still lingering, consider the following traits. These are “extremes” that can tell you if you or a loved one should be concerned of a possible drug problem:
- A Love for the Thrill – If you are sensation-seeking and continuously act on impulse, there is a chance you could be more prone to addiction. This includes engaging in thrilling, but often dangerous behaviors like driving fast, taking risks, doing drugs for a quick high, and anything else you might pursue for an adrenaline rush. Signs that you have an addictive personality might exhibit through some of the activities you already do now – Is one of the best times in your life that night you tried cocaine? Have you tried to relive the same feeling, the same rush, by consuming more cocaine or consuming it more often? In most cases, those that are addicted will build up a tolerance to drugs and will take more and more to achieve the same high.
- Impulsivity or Compulsivity – Maybe you would not consider yourself sensation-seeking, but still have a tendency to act on impulse. Do you make decisions or act without thinking about longer-term consequences? Do you struggle with self-control? Maybe you are more compulsive, acting on habitual, seemingly necessary behaviors, despite any negative aftermath. Impulsivity and compulsivity, while not synonymous, are reflections of a person’s self-control. And self-control plays a big part in how a person drinks and uses drugs, and how able they are to stop. Addiction is a compulsive disorder, and research shows that people with intense focus on compulsive behaviors, as well as those who are unable to control impulses, are at higher risk.
- Inhibited, Sad, or Anxious Feelings – If you experience depressive episodes, are inherently introverted, and/or get anxious regularly, you may be more inclined to use drugs. Studies indicate that many addicted persons have started by “self-medicating” negative feelings such as these, unsure of how else to cope and relieve their everyday stresses.
- Neuroticism – This trait is all about how you respond to challenges in your life. Do you fill up with panic, worry, fear, jealousy, anger, or other negative emotions? Do they last for long periods of time, and do you obsess over those challenges rather than moving forward? Studies suggest that people with neuroticism are more likely to develop a substance use disorder.
- Difficulty with Social Relationships – American Addiction Centers writes that cautious people who have difficulty with social relationships are also prone to addiction. Similar to negative feelings, users may turn to drugs in efforts to alleviate symptoms of loneliness or anxiety in social situations. If the drugs make a user feel better in social situations, it can further pave the path towards tolerance, dependence, and addiction.
- Apathy – Apathetic personalities – those who do not invest much care into what happens to themselves or to others – are also prone to drug addiction. They may not care about how drugs will affect their brains or bodies, or even how it might affect those around them. With a substance use disorder, a user will continue to abuse drugs regardless of negative outcomes to their health, relationships, finances, and other areas of life.
One of the most important things to remember is that everyone can have flashes of these behaviors. Sometimes, we all feel anxious, sad, or apathetic. This does not mean that you have an addictive personality, but it is important to stay cautious of it. These personality traits, if they hit extremes, can be indicative that there is an increased risk.
It is also important to remember that your personality does not govern your fate. As the medical director of Neurobehavioral Research on Addiction at the University of Texas’ states, “You can get help and lead a successful, productive life.” The first step is simply acknowledging that a potential problem exists. By asking, “Do I have an addictive personality?” now, you are already on the right track.
Addictive Personality Treatment
There are many types of addiction treatment, from long-term to short-term, inpatient to outpatient, detoxification to behavioral therapy methods. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance abuse and extreme or compulsive addictive tendencies, it is important to seek treatment that enacts a long-term, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) model, such as Turnbridge. With CBT, users in recovery can learn and refine healthy coping skills to overcome negative thoughts, emotions, habits, and drug cravings. At Turnbridge, we will also help you or your loved one address the underlying issues and emotions that initially led to substance abuse – whether it be trauma, low self-esteem, or a co-occurring disorder like depression. Together, we will channel the seeming “addictive personality” into positive, productive, and healthy pursuits in our young adult treatment program.
Learn more about our addiction treatment programs for young men and women by calling Turnbridge at 877-581-1793 today.