Is Having an “Addictive Personality” a Real Occurrence?

It is estimated that over 20 million Americans battle an addiction problem every year, with the most common being an addiction to alcohol. When substance abuse sufferers can access treatment, many of them talk about how they never intended for their use to get so bad, and that they don’t know how they got to the point where they needed professional help.

Many times, substance abuse sufferers believe they have simply been born with an “addictive personality” which has made life more difficult for them to cope without employing alcohol or other drugs.

But is there such thing as an addictive personality? And if so, couldn’t this help us find and treat substance abuse sufferers before they reach the stage of addiction and dependence?

What is an “Addictive Personality”?

While this is a term that’s widely used around the context of drug and alcohol addiction, there’s no psychological basis for an addictive personality.

However, there is scientific evidence to suggest that substance abuse disorders are formed both through genetic and environmental factors.

The people we tend to say have “addictive personalities” usually learn as children that they can manage their moods with food, alcohol, shopping, gambling, or any other substance or activity that releases dopamine – the neurotransmitter responsible for feeling happy and calm.

Also, there’s also evidence to suggest that people may have some predisposition to develop a substance abuse disorder if a relative has previously suffered from it. So, there is some evidence that points towards addiction being (to some degree) a genetic trait.

There are also various other factors that contribute to addiction, such as early peer pressure, easy access to drugs and alcohol from an early age, and even a prior addiction to a different substance. People with mental health issues such as depression are also likely to develop a substance abuse problem to cope with their emotions.

What Traits Are Associated with Addictive Personalities?

While there is no psychological definition of an addictive personality, there are some personality traits that we tend to associate with it, such as:

● Thrill-seeking

● Struggling with self-control

● Impulsive behavior

● High tolerance for substances like alcohol and drugs

● Highly emotional

However, everyone’s personality is different, and you can have one (or more) of these traits without ever having a substance abuse problem. It’s worth keeping these traits in mind, though, as people who struggle with controlling their emotions or regulating their actions may be more at risk of developing a substance abuse disorder.

These traits are also common in people who already have a diagnosed mental health disorder. For instance, people with Bipolar Disorder may exhibit thrill-seeking and impulsive behavior traits during episodes of mania, which may drive them to consume a level of a substance like drugs or alcohol they usually wouldn’t.

Substance abuse tends to have high comorbidity – or likelihood of occurring with – other mental health issues for this reason. It’s also known as having high bi-directional comorbidity. In other words, it can either be brought on by another mental health problem or cause another mental health problem.

What if I Believe I Have an Addictive Personality?

If you think that you have an addictive personality, it’s important to evaluate your relationship with potentially addictive substances, and in particular, understand how and when you use those substances. It’s helpful to keep a diary, if you can, of how much you consume and how it made you feel.

Keeping a diary is the best way to see whether your substance use is increasing over time, or if you’re using things like alcohol and drugs to deal with your emotions instead of using healthier coping strategies.

If you’re worried about your alcohol or drug intake, your first step is to see your doctor and ask for help. They may direct you to a group therapy session to help you work through your substance use, or help you find a therapist that can work with you to replace your substance use with healthier coping mechanisms.

Talking therapy can also help you to get to the root of your addictive personality, so you can work through any buried issues that may be causing you to use substances more throughout your life.

Substance Abuse Treatment

There’s help available if you have a substance abuse problem. If group therapies aren’t working for you, and you’re struggling to control your substance use, then in-patient rehabilitation centers can help you detox and improve your mental health in an environment that removes the temptation of drugs and alcohol altogether.

There are also recovery programs available that use outpatient treatment, usually employing buprenorphine-based medications that allow you to continue your normal daily life. This treatment option is typically paired with outpatient therapy to achieve lasting results.

You have to determine what treatment style works best for you, but the most important step is the first one, in which you take back control over your addiction.