While it’s possible to have some addictive personality traits, this doesn’t have to mean that you will be diagnosed with a substance use disorder one day. However, it can mean that you are more likely to develop a substance use disorder. Knowing the personality traits of addicts will help you determine whether or not you need to take extra steps to ensure that you don’t start abusing substances.
What Is an Addictive Personality?
Popular culture presents us with an image of an addictive personality, and it is the typical personality of a person destined to become addicted to drugs or alcohol. According to the stereotype, these people were exposed to trauma or abuse in their childhoods, and they also had unreliable parents. They may have mental health disorders, and they may have been raised in an impoverished household. However, having the traits outlined above doesn’t necessarily mean that you are destined to be addicted to substances.
You and your family members may be concerned that because you can be considered to have an “addictive personality,” you might be on your way toward an addiction. That would be understandable. It would be a good plan to know what the personality traits of an addict are so that you can be proactive in your own life and the lives of your family members and friends. This is an honorable goal, but you must also remember that the addictive personality isn’t necessarily a true construct.
The Myth of the Generic Addictive Personality
A specific addictive personality does not really exist. As a matter of fact, the majority of researchers state that we shouldn’t take for granted that there is one addictive personality that leads us toward addiction. In fact, Scientific American published an article that presented scientific evidence that refutes the belief that one personality type can lead to an addiction. The truth is that a unique group of people may all have different personality types that cause them to become addicted to substances.
Several traits can result in an addiction to substances, and each person can have a different trait. In addition to that, no one person will have every personality trait that causes substance use disorders. That’s why we cannot look at the image of a criminal on the fringe of society and decide that this person has a substance use disorder.
The Traits of People with a High Risk of Developing a Substance Use Disorder
Even so, we can recognize personality traits with a high risk of developing a substance use disorder. These people have a particularly difficult time moderating their behavior when they are exposed to substances. Those in this particular category can be described in the following manner:
- Cannot regulate their own behavior
- Are compulsive and obsessive
- Are cautious and disconnected
- Take risks and are adventurous
- Are experiencing co-occurring mental health disorders
- Have family members who are addicted to substances
We will take a closer look at each of these traits in the following sections:
Cannot Regulate Their Own Behavior
All of these personality traits demonstrate the lack of the ability to regulate one’s own behavior. According to an article from the University of Rochester, when coupled with the anticipation of receiving a reward, this inability has a strong link to developing a substance use disorder.
Even so, this isn’t the end of the story. Those with this personality trait do not particularly enjoy receiving the reward as much as people without this trait. To force the issue, people with this personality trait will work much harder to obtain the reward so that receiving the reward will feel magnificent. This response is directly related to the person’s sensitivity to dopamine and the amount of dopamine that has been released within the brain. It may also be related to other neurochemicals.
Are Compulsive and Obsessive
Addiction is related to the inability to control one’s impulses, but this is not all there is to the story. Those who are unable to resist their impulses may start to use substances because of an obsessive-compulsive disorder. The nature of addiction is to develop habits that continue as time goes by. The habit to indulge in substances becomes a compulsion when an addiction has developed and is not necessarily related to an impulse.
People may develop habitual behaviors because they focus intensely on an issue, and this can mean that these particular people are as likely to fall into a substance use disorder as those with the inability to control their impulses. The main symptom of the disorder is the compulsive use of substances, and it can exist at the same time that the inability to control one’s impulses exists.
Are Cautious and Disconnected
These traits typically belong to women. Most of these women have a hard time with their social relationships and may also suffer from anxiety or depression or both anxiety and depression. These traits often lead to substance use disorders. These women are more likely to use substances to self-medicate when they are experiencing anxiety, depression or loneliness. They begin to need the substances to make themselves feel better on a regular basis. When this occurs, tolerance can set in when they need to increase the doses of their substances of choice to keep experiencing the effects that their substances have given them.
Take Risks and Are Adventurous
People with these traits are at a greater risk of developing a substance use disorder. These people enjoy taking risks, and they have the inability to control their impulses, so they are happy to experiment and try new experiences even if they are dangerous. This means that they are highly likely to try substances. Reuters published a study that found that risk-takers may have higher levels of dopamine in their brains. How sensitive their brains are to this extra dopamine may explain their propensity to becoming addicted to substances.
Specifically, higher levels of dopamine may mean that the person isn’t as sensitive to its effects. Therefore, they must have more dangerous experiences than someone without this sensitivity to dopamine to feel the pleasure that dopamine causes. The use of substances can become connected to the pleasurable feelings that dopamine creates, so the dopamine system is directly involved. It makes someone with this personality trait more likely to take risks with substances and become addicted later on.
Experiencing Co-Occurring Mental Health Disorders
The existence of a mental health disorder can increase your risk of developing a substance use disorder. If someone is experiencing a mental health disorder that hasn’t been diagnosed, it is highly likely that this person will self-medicate by using substances. They are highly likely to abuse these substances and then they are likely to become dependent on them. Several mental health conditions can lead to substance use disorders, including the following:
- Antisocial personality disorders
- Psychotic disorders
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Anxiety disorders
- Depression, bipolar disorder and other mood disorders
- Family members who are addicted to substances
Scientific research studies found that 50% of a person’s risk of becoming addicted to substances depends on the genetic makeup of the person. Scientists even discovered that there are more than 400 locations on the human genome that can influence a person’s risk of becoming addicted to substances. Because of this research, scientists are close to discovering a way to determine whether or not someone will become addicted to substances before it happens. Even so, just because you are genetically predisposed to becoming addicted to substances, it doesn’t necessarily have to occur.
Preventing a Substance Use Disorder
If you or your loved one have one or more of the personality traits listed above, you may have a higher risk of developing a substance use disorder. Since you have learned exactly what your risks are, you have lowered this particularly high risk. If you are currently in a drug treatment program, you must not think that your treatment is hopeless because you have a few of the personality traits of someone addicted to substances.
If you recognize yourself in this article, you have the option of tackling the issue and getting help for your substance use disorder. You don’t have to allow your personality traits and your family history take you in a direction that you do not wish to go. Take the first step and contact us at the Long Island Addiction Treatment Center.
How to Help a Person with High Addiction Risk
If you are concerned about a loved one, the Long Island Addiction Treatment Center can be the safe haven that this person needs as well. We can offer your loved one several options for getting the help that he or she needs. These include outpatient rehab, the evening intensive outpatient program, the intensive outpatient treatment program or the partial hospitalization program.
If you would like to end your dependence on substances or get treatment for a loved one, contact us at Long Island Treatment Center. We can also provide you with dual diagnosis treatment. Call us today.