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addictive personalities and impact on substance abuse
August 18, 2017

How to Know if You Have an Addictive Personality

addictive personalities and impact on substance abuseIt’s a popular catchphrase, but is it a clinical phenomenon and could it describe you? Get the scoop here.

It’s easy to watch a movie or television show with a character that is portrayed as an alcoholic or drug user and think to yourself, “That’s not me. I’d never be like that.” Yet, when you hear the term “addictive personality,” you might wonder what that is and if it applies to you. While there does seem to be some controversy as to whether there is such a thing as an addictive personality, it is not a diagnosable mental health disorder.

Still, certain traits commonly associated with addictive personality are like those of addiction. If you possess those traits, you may be at risk for developing an addiction. The key is knowledge. The more you know about the term addictive personality, the better prepared you’ll be to do identify potential warning signs of addiction.

WHAT AN ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY LOOKS LIKE

Much has been written about the addictive personality type. Indeed, some go so far as to equate it with addiction, while other researchers adamantly insist there’s no such thing as an addictive personality. There is, however, no denying that some traits signal dangerous behavior, whether they’re ascribed to an addictive personality or an individual who demonstrates such on-the-edge behavior and attitude.

Alan R. Lang, a psychology professor at Florida State University, in an addiction study funded by the National Academy of Sciences, identified what he called “significant personality factors” or traits that predispose someone to addiction.

Common addictive personality traits:

  • Impulsivity
  • Social alienation
  • Tolerance for deviance
  • Heightened stress
  • Lack of coping skills
  • Nonconformist, weak commitment to socially valued goals for achievement

Dr. Roman Kotov of New York’s Stony Brook School of Medicine and colleagues in 2010 evaluated 175 studies looking at the connection between personality traits and anxiety, depression and substance use disorders. They found that disinhibition, which involves impulsivity and lack of regard for social norms, along with disagreeableness, were linked with development of substance use disorders. Their work was published in the journal, Psychological Bulletin. According to Kotov, it’s important to remember that personality traits are a matter of degree and, “just like intelligence,” that “they fall on a continuum.”

Other common traits associated with an addictive personality include depression and emotional insecurity.

SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF ADDICTIVE PERSONALITY

Given the controversy surrounding the issue of addictive personality, suffice to say that you shouldn’t be overly concerned about the label or whether it applies to you. However, if your behavior is out of control and your life is falling to pieces, you know you have a problem of some kind that must be addressed.

If drugs and alcohol or other addictive behavior are part of the mix, you may want to pay attention to the following concerning signs and symptoms.

  • Low self-esteem
  • Frequent mood swings
  • Difficulty focusing on long-term goals due to preoccupation with getting through short-term goals
  • Insecurity in relationships
  • Acting on impulses, not thinking things through before acting
  • Inability to delay gratification
  • Rebelliousness
  • Sensitivity to emotional stress
  • Difficulty handling frustrating situations
  • May have some type of depression or anxiety
  • Spending inordinate amount of time on a behavior because of a feeling of necessity, not desire
  • Trust issues
  • Constantly seeking approval of others

PERSONALITY – IT’S WHAT MAKES YOU WHO YOU ARE

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that personality “refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving.” Furthermore, the APA notes, personality study focuses on understanding two broad areas: individual differences, such as irritability or sociability, in certain personality characteristics, and how various parts of an individual coalesce into a whole.

In short, each of us has multiple, often intertwined characteristics of varying degrees on a continuum. How we think, feel and act varies according to the way we were brought up, what we learned in school and through experiences, through interpersonal relationships, our biological makeup, emotional intelligence and other factors. Your personality, then, is what makes you who you are.

WHEN PERSONALITY TRAITS, TAKEN TOO FAR, ARE CAUSE FOR CONCERN

If you find that you’re exceedingly short-tempered, prone to making rash decisions or embarking on a project or venture with little thought or preparation, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there’s anything wrong. It may be that you’re a bit too concerned about things being perfect or you are eager to get started and are bothered by delays caused by others not being as ready to go as you. These aren’t personality flaws, although they can and should be tempered.

However, when your short temper, impetuousness, or bad decision-making causes you to seek to numb your emotions and dull the pain through drug and alcohol use, this should be cause for concern. Similarly, isolating yourself from others and attempting to go it alone to solve your problems isn’t the best way to deal with frustration, disappointment, anger, sadness or other powerful emotions. Turning to alcohol or drugs for relief is a dangerous pattern that could lead to dependence on substances. If you cannot find healthier ways to manage your emotions and monitor your behavior, you may benefit from professional help to overcome the tendency to use substances as a coping mechanism.

Individual counseling is available, independent of drug and alcohol rehab. When substance use becomes substance abuse, especially when diagnosed as substance use disorder (SUD), it may be prudent to enter a professional drug and alcohol treatment program. In addition to one-on-one therapy, you’ll also have group therapy and access to a number of treatment modalities, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to help change the way you think so you can feel and act in more appropriate ways even though situations may not change.

Instead of wondering and worrying if you have an addictive personality, take stock of your strengths and construct a plan to change perceived weaknesses. Focusing on the positive attributes of your life, living in the present, seeking to effect manageable change for your own good and that of others is a more proactive approach. If you do need help in certain areas, particularly if it involves compulsive use of substances or pursuing addictive behavior, help is readily available. If you want to change, professionals can help you navigate potential pitfalls and identify appropriate ways to achieve your goals.

 

Sources:

Nature, “Genetics: No more addictive personality.” Retrieved July 26, 2017

New York Times, Science, “The Addictive Personality: Common Traits Are Found.” Retrieved July 25, 2017

Psychology Today, “Low self-esteem; a disposition that can lead to addiction.” Retrieved July 26, 2017

Scientific American, “The Addictive Personality Isn’t What You Think It Is.” Retrieved July 26, 2017

WebMD, “Do You Have an Addictive Personality?” Retrieved July 26, 2017

 

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