The phrase “addictive personality” gets tossed around a lot these days, but in reality, it isn’t what most people believe it means. The idea that someone can’t seem to kick a drug habit or a social media obsession due to their addictive personality is not realistic. The concept of an addictive personality has a lot to do with what we hear from the media and reality.
What is An Addictive Personality?
An addictive personality is not a medical diagnosis, and research says it’s a misnomer since there isn’t one personality type that’s more prone to addiction. Both addition and personalities are highly complex concepts that can’t be compartmentalized into one category. Underlying factors for getting carried away include anxiety, depression, poor impulse control. These are all behaviors that don’t have a direct relation to your personality.
Do Addictive Behaviors Lead to Addiction?
Since some people are more likely to develop a substance use disorder, we often blame their personalities for placing them at risk. However, research points to someone’s genes for their likeability to have an addictive personality rather than their personalities.
Later on, researchers include things like having addict parents or family members with mental health disorders. These things can make someone predisposed to having addictive traits that could lead to addiction. However, it’s impossible to pinpoint addiction to someone’s personality.
Personality Traits of People at Risk of Addiction
Still, some personality traits can point to addiction. People with a higher risk of addiction are:
- Related to others struggling with addiction
- Experience mental health disorders
- Risk takers
- Disconnected and cautious
- Obsessive and compulsive traits
- Unable to self-regulate
- Using alcohol to socialize or relax
- Replacing sexual partners for a false sense of intimacy
- Use drugs for coping
- Never satisfied or needing more for a particular feeling
Other common signs of addictive personalities include: always wanting more, continuing despite consequences, inability to follow the rules, obsessing, replacing relationships, and secrecy.
Those who are likely to take risks and have poor impulse control are more likely to try drugs or addictive substances. Risk-taking personalities continuously seek something that fuels them. A study suggests that these individuals might have higher levels of dopamine in the brain. This makes them have a lower sensitivity to dopamine’s effects, which means they need more intense experiences to feel the pleasure that dopamine causes. When they try drugs and alcohol, they might need higher doses of these substances to experience the same feelings as someone with normal dopamine levels.
Also known as the disconnected trait, these are individuals who have difficulty with social interactions. At the same time, they may suffer from anxiety, depression, or both. Most of the time, these individuals will try to self-medicate and manage their symptoms with alcohol or drugs that help them dull those feelings. Eventually, their self-medication practice builds up their tolerance and potentially could lead them to addiction.
The closest trait to an “addictive personality.” People think addiction is only related to a lack of impulse control. Still, frequently those who are too rigid managing their impulses end up using drugs and alcohol as a manifestation of an obsessive-compulsive behavior pattern. Addiction usually becomes a compulsion to use the substances, rather than an urge to try something new. The obsessive often maintain habitual behaviors that are likely to develop an addiction.
Healthy Ways to Manage an Addictive Personality
Beyond the genetics of addiction and environmental factors, researchers are noticing that an inability to regulate behavior around the anticipation of receiving rewards is linked to addiction development. However, today, we know that addiction is a progressive, complex, and ever-evolving disease that can’t be traced back to a single cause.
There are ways to manage these impulses for someone who has difficulty controlling their impulses, whether it’s compulsive comfort eating, obsession with social media, or gambling.
- Practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, relaxation, exercise, and other therapeutic activities.
- Make an effort to connect with others that have shared interests or enjoyable activities.
- Avoid using sex, shopping, or other substitutes to bolster your self-esteem.
- Experiment with different activities and reward mechanisms for whenever you feel bored.
- Seek excitement through healthy activities like traveling, starting a new hobby, or setting goals for yourself.
- Beware of the warning signs of drug abuse or alcohol addiction and seek help when needed.
People who are addicted are often the last person to realize it — if they do. By the time someone notices their substance use problem, it has taken a toll on their physical and mental health, relationships, and work-life. Addiction is often a band-aid on a more serious underlying problem. The key to addressing addiction is peeling the layers to get to the core problem and addressing those underlying causes of addiction.
Various behavioral therapies, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), can help individuals struggle with these issues. It’s essential to learn ways to manage unhealthy behaviors and work on self-regulation skills to moderate your addictive response.
For those who already developed substance abuse, treatment programs can incorporate these therapies with other evidence-based treatment programs. Not only will this approach help with the substance or behavioral problem, but it will also help them control the various personality traits that might affect them in long-term recovery. Not addressing the unhealthy personality traits during treatment could increase someone’s risk of relapse or engage in unhealthy behaviors after leaving a treatment facility.
If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, the time to seek help is now. This is especially true when personality disorders are involved, which are likely to become worse over time. At Lighthouse Recovery Institute, our addiction treatment programs offer a comprehensive approach that looks at addiction from various angles. We incorporate behavioral therapies, evidence-based treatments, and alternative therapies that address addiction from a physical, mental, and emotional perspective.